Apple opens OS X betas to non-developers

So with WWDC fast approaching Apple have just released a change in their policy regarding betas.

In the past you had to be a signed up developer to access pre-release copies of OS X.

This has now changed. Apple have just announced that non developers can access beta releases of OS X via its new Beta Seed Program.

It’s free to sign up but you do have to agree to a confidentiality agreement.

This is a great way of accessing pre-release copies of OS X for your internal testing.

Enjoy…..

The UK’s first Mac walk-in Service Desk at a University!

Back in January of this year, Plymouth University opened “The CORE”. The CORE is the first Mac walk-in Service Desk at a University in the UK.

The service, which is staffed by Amsys Apple Certified Technicians, provides staff and students with a walk-in Mac support service, similar to that of the “Genius Bar” at the Apple Store.

This service, which is more than just a support desk, provides members of the university with “a visible presence of IT that allows the business and students to gain the benefits of Plymouth University’s highly skilled staff without the usual pain of process and call logging that normally applies.”

Last month, one of the lecturers was trying to use a new high-res scanner that hadn’t been set up to work with their Macs, so he walked over to The CORE to see if his problem could be resolved. Lecturer, Mike, explains:

“Previously I would have had to send software requests and complete spreadsheets that could take days but today I walked over to ‘The CORE’ next to the illustration studio and was able to get the correct driver installed in less than two minutes by a member of the Amsys team. This made my job so much easier and was a huge improvement over the previous Mac support system we had to endure.”

thecore-plymouth

Other situations where The Core has been on hand to help include:

Helping a student who had accidentally deleted their system files, and needed help and assistance on recovering them from Time Machine.

Another student had issues with Word crashing whilst in the middle of a dissertation (due in the next day!). It turns out that he had no free space on his Mac. Our team were able to resolve the issue, and then advise the student on how to clear some space and to remember to keep saving regularly, plus backups!

“The CORE is a great opportunity to change the method of I.T service delivery so that it is right where the users need it. We’re delighted to be in the flagship Roland Levinsky building and to provide this very user centric support service for the university.”

David Acland, Technical Director Amsys

Click here for more information about our Apple consultancy services and how we can help your school or university.

An Introduction to iBeacons Seminar

ibeacons-retailers
Last summer, iBeacons was quietly released along with iOS 7 with little fanfare, however, over the last few months this technology has started to gain traction within the technology market and has already been adopted by a number of high profile organisations. Indeed, back in November we started work with iBeacon transmitter manufacturer, Estimote on our own deployment projects.

We are really excited about this technology, as there are endless possibilities where iBeacons can be used throughout a number of different industry sectors. However, as the Guardian quite rightly pointed out last week “Getting it right means more than just deploying a few beacons” and we believe that this is incredibly important if you are going to implement an effective iBeacons strategy.

Which is why we are running an “Introduction to iBeacons” seminar for businesses that want to find out what iBeacons are, how they work and how they can be deployed to transform the way they currently interact with their customers.

There are a number of organisations who have already started testing and implementing iBeacons, these include:

Tescos is currently testing iBeacons to create a tailored shopping experience, depending on which store the customer is visiting.

American Eagle has deployed iBeacons across 100 of their stores in the USA, to notify customers of deals and product suggestions whilst they are shopping.

The Groninger Museum in the Netherlands now uses iBeacons to provide interactive content to their visitors about the particular piece they are viewing.

Major League Baseball have installed iBeacons around the US to provide their spectators with point-of-interest mapping and other relevant contextual information.

Our next event is on the 6th of May in London, where we will be discussing the following topics:

  • An overview of Bluetooth LE.
  • An overview of the iBeacon Framework in iOS 7.
  • An overview of iBeacon transmitters.
  • The infrastructure required.
  • An overview of implementing iBeacons in your app and organisation.
  • Some example deployment scenarios.

Date: 6th May, 10am – 12pm
Where: Soho, London

If you are interested in learning more about iBeacons and how you can use them in your organisation, then attend our seminar in May! To register please fill in the form below:

Heartbleed: What it means for you and how to protect your business

The Heartbleed bug is hitting the headlines, and many people are talking about a huge compromise in IT. Here’s some succinct information for you to keep up to date.

What is it?

The Heartbleed bug is a vulnerability using OpenSSL, which is type of common cryptographic protocols to protect data: SSL and TLS. These are used to encrypt data to protect your credentials, mostly username and passwords as well as content.

This cryptology is in embedded for servers and services around the world, meaning mail, websites and services from servers are affected if they utilise this type of cryptology to protect data. It is an isolated version dated from 2011, so it exists in and around previous and current technology.

Vulnerable servers can have their encoded data hijacked and abused. One master password can mean unlocking all of your customers  data to would be attackers.

The specific versions of OpenSSL 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f (inclusive) are vulnerable.

What that means for Mac Users:

Mac Servers
OS X has used version 0.9.8y historically and so does not suffer from this vulnerability. The only way it can be affected is if someone had compiled and installed an older version.

Kerio Connect
Kerio has released a patch for the vulnerability. Our support team rolled out the patch to our support clients as soon as  it became available.

How can I protect myself?

The usual procedures apply. Do not use the same password across all accounts. Change your passwords regularly. Watch your browsing habits. If you own a website, check with your hosting company that they are addressing the problem, as many web servers are running the operating systems that OpenSSL is bundled with.

Here is a tool to check if a website could be vulnerable.

filippo.io/Heartbleed/

More detailed information can be found here:

http://heartbleed.com/

How to quickly access and search unix command man pages

Here’s something I stumbled across recently. I have no idea how long this feature has existed for, but I am really pleased I found it! Apologies to those that already know this, but despite using the Terminal on a Mac for years, I never knew about this!

If you double-click on a unix command in the Terminal to highlight the command, you can then control/right-click and select “Open man Page”:

open man page

This will then load up a new window with the man page of the highlighted command so that you can see what the command’s synopsis, description and options are without having to cancel or clear the command you have started to enter:

defaults write terminal

Whilst a command is highlighted, you can also control/right-click and select “Search man Page Index” :

search man page index

For those of you familiar with using ‘apropos’, this option will load up a new window with all command line references to the highlighted word:

apropos default

This feature may be something you are already aware of and, therefore, my question is why has no-one told me before! :)

I decided to blog this to share the word to those, like me, that have not stumbled across this and I hope like me they will find this useful!

One other useful feature which I think may have been added in Mavericks, is that you can option/alt-click anywhere in the middle of a unix command to move the cursor directly to the exact point you clicked. Nice!

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.2 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

Rebuild the Spotlight Index on the fly

If you’re having issues finding files on your Mac, then you can easily rebuild the Spotlight index for your Mac by typing the following command into the Terminal:

sudo mdutil -E

After you do that, you will notice, after a few minutes, that when  you click the Spotlight button in the menu bar, Spotlight will show that it is currently indexing your system.

rebuild index

By using the above command, this will index all drives, or you can specify a drive to be indexed by adding the drive name.

sudo mdutil -E /Volumes/DriveName

Disclaimer:
While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

How to hide and disable icons on your desktop

Over the last few weeks, I have been preparing to do a WebEx‎ presentation whereby I will need to share my desktop. However, it’s in a bit of a mess!

So, I had two options, either I clean up or try to hide it! The clean up option meant that I would have to put everything back following the presentation, so option two it was!

There are two ways in which you can do this, depending on how often you are going to or need to use it. One way is to run a couple of commands in terminal or create a script that you can just launch as and when you need it. Today, we are going to use the script files, but you can easily use each command separately.

The Hide Command:
We will need to create a new file, to do so we are going to use nano:

nano DesktopHide.command

For the script we are going to use:

#!/bin/sh
 
defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool false && killall Finder && killall Terminal

The Reversal Command:

We need to create a new file and to do so we are going to use nano:

nano DesktopReveal.command

For the script we are going to use:

#!/bin/sh
 
defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool true && killall Finder && killall Terminal

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

A new Apple Certified Master Trainer joins the Amsys team!

Back in April last year, Apple announced their new certification for Apple Certified trainers called the “Apple Certified Master Trainer”. This certification recognises Apple Certified trainers “who build their skills and knowledge around Apple technologies” and “stand out as experts.” Now we can proudly say that we have a full house at Amsys Training as Daryl McCartney received his Apple Master Certification last week!

apple master trainer logo

So, who are our Apple Certified Master trainers now?

Daryl McCartney, teaches our Support and Server Essentials, Mac Integration Basics and our ACMT courses

Richard Mallion, is our IT Director with extensive experience within both windows and mac platforms, programming, cross platform integration, app development and he also created our popular OS X revision app, Revise IT and iOS deployment troubleshooting app, Services Test.

Russell trains ACMT, ACSP, ACTC, ACA as well as, Mac Support for PC, Advanced Deployment and Keynote and iBooks.

Hugo teaches our advanced OS X courses such as, Advanced Deployment and OS X security, as well as our iOS Security and Deployment course.

Pete trains, ACA, ACSP, ACTC, Advanced Deployment, Advanced Directory Services, Advanced OS X security and our iOS Deployment & Security courses.

apple master traininers 2014

“We’re delighted that Daryl has achieved this status, as now all of our trainers have been awarded the Apple Master Trainer Certification, which reflects our determination to set the standard for the industry.”
Alex Hawes, Managing Director

Thank you to everyone who attended the Manchester open day

apple training centre manchester

Last week we hosted an open day with our sister company Soho Editors at our new training centre at The Sharp Project.

The day kicked off with a networking breakfast, followed by a packed 2hr seminar or iOS App Development and an hour on Final Cut Pro X by Soho Editors, which was so popular we had to hold two sessions!

After lunch, delegates spent the afternoon attending a choice of 4 different seminars on Advanced OS X Server, iOS Security and Deployment, DaVinci Resolve, and Creative Cloud or networking and enjoying the selection of complementary wines and beers!

Throughout the day we were delighted to meet so many new faces as well as our regular delegates, with whom we have had long standing relationship with. It was great to finally get to talk with everyone outside of a typical training day!

We also held a “Sharp Shooter Challenge” on the table tennis, football and pool table with a top prize of an iPod Nano. The winners were:

  • Pool – David Urquhart
  • Football – Rob Magowan
  • Table Tennis – Daniel Jones

Thanks to everyone who attended and helped make the day an enjoyable and successful event, please check out some of the photos below, and stay tuned for further announcements and events!

 

ios app development seminar

Full house for the iOS App Development Seminar.

lunch

Plenty of networking during lunch.

panoramic

Amsys and Soho Editors’ seminars in full swing!

md-table-tennis

Our MDs’ have a friendly table tennis game.

Introducing iOS Server

OS X Server has always run on Mac hardware. However, with the advent of cheaper, mobile and energy efficient iOS devices such as iPads, the Amsys team have always thought it would be fantastic if you could utilise these devices to run the server product, as well.

Just think how wonderful it would be to have a rack of iPads hosting your file sharing services or web services!

So for the last few years our team of developers have been busy working away and today we can finally, proudly announce the ‘iOS Server’.

iOS Server is a native app that offers all the features of Apple’s OS X Server product for the iPad. Instead of being tied to Macintosh Hardware you can deploy iPads for your back-end infrastructure.

You gain many benefits by using iPad:

  • iPads are mobile. So instead of having a dedicated server room, you can deploy the iPads around your office. You could even take your server home with you in the evening.
  • They are much more energy efficient, plus with a built in battery, if you have a power failure; they still continue to run.
  • They have a smaller footprint so you can stack them far more easily than say the new Mac Pro.
  • No keyboard or mouse is required.

Server App

We took a long time to create a Server App for iOS that looked and behaved like Apple’s OS X version. So if you are already running or administrating OS X Server, you will feel right at home with iOS Server.

As we already mentioned, we have recreated nearly all the services that OS X Server offers, but here are some of the highlights.

File Sharing

ios-fs

As you can see from the screenshot, we have implemented a fully working FileSharing service supporting AFP and SMB network protocols. You can make use of the internal storage of the iPad and reshare files to your network.

To overcome the limited storage of the iPad, we have implemented a mechanism that allows you to reshare files from your favourite cloud service such as Dropbox or Box. For redundancy, you can even cluster a set of iPads to create more bandwidth and more reliability in the event of a failure.

Managed Users

ios-mdm

iOS Server has full support for managing all your users and groups. These can either be local users to that specific iPad, we offer full support for Open Directory Accounts or you can connect iOS Server to your company directory server, such as Active Directory.

With a fully functioning MDM service, you can manage your OS X and iOS devices/users in the same way that you have been able to with OS X Server.

Caching Service

ios-caching

iOS Server can act as a Caching for all your OS X, iOS and App updates. For example, the File Sharing service, you can utilise the local storage of the iPad to cache these updates or you can tap into your favourite cloud service.

Other Services

ios-othersevices
As you can see we offer the full comprehensive services that you would expect. Ranging from Mail and Calendar services to backup services.

Availability and Requirements

iOS Server requires an iPad with retina screen running iOS 7+. Minimum suggested storage is 32GB. iOS Server will be available from the App Store starting today priced at £0.69

Personal Note: After the disastrous Spaghetti harvest of 2013 , I’m off to open my first jam mine in deepest, darkest Cornwall.

What’s in my Mac admin tool kit

Hey all, this month I’ve decided to share some of the tools and resources I use to carry out my day-to-day job. The common questions I get when I visit clients are:

  • What tools would you recommend for packaging?
  • What tools for scripting?
  • How do you learn the best was to package software ‘X’?

It’s this information that I’d like to share with you today.

Packaging

So number one on my list, is the tools I use for packaging / repackaging applications. First a word of advice, typically, it is better to take a developer provided .pkg or .mpkg install, and use this combined with secondary and so on installs to customise the install to your requirements, than it is to repackage the software for the sake of it.

Developers spend a lot of time (at least I like to think so) carefully crafting Installers with logic and scripts, that simply by repackaging these, you could break and cause more work for yourself.

Now for the juicy stuff, I tend to use the following six utilities when packaging applications and installers:

  • Iceberg
  • Packages
  • Composer (JAMF)
  • AutoPKG
  • AutoDMG
  • Munki (yes Munki!)

Iceberg

Iceberg is a GUI Apple package-making tool developed by WhiteBox and is available for free to download. At its heart, it’s a very basic packaging environment, and I typically used this to create payload-free installer packages to run scripts, or to create deployable installers for drag and drop software such as Firefox.

I say ‘used to’ as this hasn’t been updated since 2011 and, although it works fine, it has been replaced by Packages. Iceberg can only create non-flat packages, which can be a disadvantage or an advantage depending on your situation.

Packages

Packages is another GUI Apple package making tool, again developed by WhiteBox, again free to download and use. The interface is slightly more updated than Iceberg’s and has been simplified to a certain extent. Packages also provides a command line tool to assist with the building and automation of package building tasks.

In contrast to Iceberg, Packages can only create flat-packages, which can be both advantageous or disadvantageous depending on your specific requirement.

Composer

Composer (part of the JAMF Casper suite but also available separately) is a full snapshot-based packaging tool. I have to confess to not trying other options out there, purely because JAMF’s offering fulfills my requirements well enough.

As well as its snapshot method, it also has a number of recipes to grab from preinstalled software any required files to package that software that you already have installed.

Although not free, it retails at only around US$80 for education and US$100 for others, per license.

AutoPKG

AutoPKG is a relatively new kid on the block in the Mac Admin world. Co-developed by Tim Sutton and Greg Neagle (two of the heavy-weights in Mac Admin’ing) it’s a great tool that, with the usage of recipes, can automatically download the latest version of software, perform some basic to intermediate repackaging, and automatically add the results into Munki Repo/s.

As it’s command-line based, it can be scripted and scheduled, allow certain mundane packaging tasks to be fully automated. Additionally, tools have been provided to allow other users to contribute to the recipes, increasing the number of software that can be dealt with in this way.

Available for free here with an active Google Group and a detailed Wiki I cannot recommend this enough. I’ll be looking to write a blog on this soon, but it really is simple to use and configure.

Another thing worth mentioning for the Casper users is a great project that has been released (as testing!) over at www.318.com called ‘JSSImporter for AutoPKG’.

AutoDMG

Another recent (-ish) utility, developed as a successor to InstaDMG, AutoDMG carries out a similar task by allowing the Mac Admin to create an unbooted Mac OS X disk image, ready to be deployed without any of the Hardware specific items (such as ByHost files and UUIDs) getting in the way.

Available for free here, it’s much like InstaDMG, it also allows you to add Apple Software updates automatically as well as any custom installers you wish, all presented in a nice GUI. As of the latest version, it also includes command line tools, allowing you to automate and schedule re-creations of updated ‘masters’ as often as required.

Munki

Now for the curve ball, using the command line ‘munkiimport’ you can actually import the DMG drag and drop installers (e.g. Firefox) and just plan .app bundles (as obtained from the Mac App Store) directly into your Munki repos. Munki will know exactly what to do to use these items and install them correctly! See my Munki whitepaper a guide on Munki usage.

Scripting

For my scripting needs, there are only three main applications I use, although I’m leaning towards a fourth. These are:

  • Fraise
  • Xcode
  • TextEdit
  • TextWrangler

Fraise

One of my favourite little free apps is Fraise. Although no longer in development (for a long while!) It is still free, fast and easy to use. The only real issue is that due to the age, it can occasionally crash but not too often! Available for download here.

Xcode

Yes, I have used Xcode in a pinch (normally by accident) for my bash scripting. Although the scripting interface is pretty cool, with colour coding, suggestions and line numbers, I find the application is too slow in use and launching to be of much help….and it’s huge!

Available free from the Mac App Store.

TextEdit

Always a last resort (well, before MS Word anyway) is Apple’s TextEdit. You need to configure a number of options before use (such as Plain text, disable smart copy & paste and smart quotes) otherwise it runs the likelihood of breaking your scripts as you use it!

Free with every Mac OS X copy!

TextWrangler

Another free scripting program, personally I find it to be a little slower than Fraise (hence why I haven’t fully embraced it) but it has no real faults and is actively developed! I’ll likely switch over in the near future just for the on-going development aspect.

Available free here (or via a AutoPKG recipe!).

Deployment Tools

This section lists the four main tools I use for deployment. The choices of tools used (or provided) will depend on lots of factors such as function, cost, ease of use, customer knowledge and available customer time. These are:

  • JAMF’s Casper Suite
  • Munki
  • DeployStudio
  • Apple Remote Desktop (ARD)

Casper Suite

Top of the range (certainly in cost and features) JAMF’s Casper suite is intended as a one stop shop for Mac OS X and iOS deployment, imaging, management and asset tracking. The best comparison I can make is it’s a Mac version of Microsoft’s SCCM solution.

OK it’s not 100% perfect and has its quirks but then what doesn’t? For one thing, their user forums are a treasure trove of helpful information and Mac Admins, eager to share the knowledge they’ve gained.

As far from free as possible but you do get a lot of ‘bang for your buck’. Check out JAMF’s website for more information and for prices etc.

Munki

Munki is the brainchild of a certain Greg Neale and provides a great tool to manage the software installations and maintenance on your Mac fleet. Requiring simply a web server and some client tools, it can be hosted on almost any Server system (and some non-server such as NAS boxes) allowing it to be scalable to any size.

To top it off, it’s free! The main downside of Munki is it’s all command line, and this can be very intimidating to a newcomer and can make complex solutions difficult to visualise and understand. However, I do know some Mac Admins who’d consider this a pro to Munki!

Other Mac developers have come to the rescue such as Hannes Juutilainen and his Munki Admin GUI tool to lower this perceived learning curve….and I can’t forget my own efforts!

DeployStudio

DeployStudio is another (!) free tool leveraging Apple’s Netboot system to provide a simple method to deploy Mac master images and settings across the network (think Windows PXE boot style). Simple and easy to use, with plenty of little tricks to find and utilise it’d make a great addition to any deployment workflow (JAMF take note!).

Freely available here.

Apple Remote Desktop (ARD)

Bottom of the pile due to the basic nature of the tool, ARD has, however, saved my bacon more times then I can count! Once you have added all of the Macs in your estate, you can simply and on-demand push out installations and scripts as needed.

The main downside is that this system pushes out the items, rather than getting the clients to pull them. This can result in some Macs just never getting that install or script to run.

Available from the Mac App Store for GB£54.99.

Hardware Information

These tools are great for finding out the warranty status of that Mac, or how much extra RAM will it take, something’s that can be difficult to remember when all you have is a Serial Number.

Global Service Exchange (GSX)

Only available to Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASPs), I will only touch briefly on this, but it’s a one-stop shop for when all you have is a serial number, and you need to know warranty status, model designation, take apart manuals etc.

Apple Service Page

This website can give you almost the same information as GSX but is open and free to all.

MacTracker

A great little tool from Ian Page is available from his website, the Mac App Store and the iOS stores, all for free. It shows you all the possible information for each model of Mac that ever existed! Great to find out how much RAM you can cram into your ageing MacBook Pro.

General Resources

And now we reach our final section, this list details the places I frequent to try and stay on top of new Mac issues and techniques, as well as for reference material when I need assistance.

DeployStudio Forums
Although primarily focused on DS, these forums can be a great place to find out about issues as they arise.

JAMF Nation
Again, primarily focussed on Casper products, these forums are great to find out about new issues, new ideas and best ways to package certain products.

Munki Google Group
Again, focused on Munki specifically, is another place where some great Mac Admins are communicating and can be an ideal place to pick up that little bit extra knowledge!

Mac Enterprise Mailing List
Unlike the others, this mailing list is focused purely on Mac’s in the enterprise (and education) and can prove an invaluable resource at times.

Miscellaneous Blogs

Just a quick list of the blogs I check often.

Mike Kaply
Mike created and maintains the excellent CCK2 for customising and locking down Firefox installations.

The Mac Admin
Miles is an excellent JAMF trainer and regularly posts details and ‘script-bits’ that are helpful and valuable.

nbalonso
An Ex-Apple employee who is generous with his knowledge of all things Mac and UNIX.

derflounder
Rich is another well-known and respected Mac Admin, here you can read his words of wisdom.

krypted
Author of the Apple Certification books since….well for years!.

hints.macworld
A good site for the more user-focused tips and tricks.

afp548
The classic Mac Admin blog, always worth checking out.

Summary

And there you go. I hope that this insight into the places I regularly visit will you learn and improve your knowledge of Mac Administration, or at least gives you some ideas! I want to also hear from you. Do you have any favourite tools / website you utilise? Let me know in the comments below!

Pearson Vue exam tip

I have been running our ACMT Fast Track course this week, which consists of two exams (1x hardware & 1x software).  For years, we have always recommended that while answering questions if you do not know which is correct, try to discount answers that you know are  incorrect as this will sometimes narrow down to two or possibly even just one remaining answer.

While taking the software exam today, one of my delegates noted that if you right click on an answer, it will put a line through it to visually help you determine which of the remaining answers is correct.

pearson vue exam tim

This is especially useful for those questions that have 5 or more answers, as it will help make it a lot easier for you to remember which ones you have already discounted.

Using arrays in bash

Working with one of our enterprise clients recently I needed to use an array in a bash script.

This was because we wanted to read a load of separate values from AD and then perform a different task on the results.  I had some memories using arrays with Objective-C but it took a bit of working out so I thought I’d share what I found.

The Requirement

We were working on a script to mount network drives based on AD group membership.  The only oddity was the  shared drive URLs were being stored in the description fields of the AD group records.  We needed to check the groups the user was a member of and mount each of the respective drives.  This particular client had in excess of 4000 group records so hard coding values definitely wasn’t an option!

Bash Array Basics

It’s probably a good idea at this point to run through a few basics with arrays in bash.  This isn’t a definitive guide but covers the core elements we used in our script.

Arrays are quite similar to standard unix variables, the key difference is the use of brackets:

 myArray=(value)

This would of course only store one value in the array so not much more use than a variable.

The power is when you want to store multiple values:

myArray=(value1 value2 value3)

As you can see you add multiple values by using a space as the separator.  If you want white space in an array entry enclose it in quotes (‘value 1’ ‘value 2’).

If you wanted to add more values later you can use the + sign:

myArray+=(‘value4’)
myArray+=(‘value5’)

To read the values back you can use either an @ symbol:

echo ${myArray[@]}

Or use a number to read back a specific entry:

echo ${myArray[1]}

(It is worth noting at this point that arrays start at 0 so the first entry isn’t 1, its 0)

The Solution

We started off reading the memberOf attribute in AD and used sed & cut to get the group name.
The resulting values were put into an array called “adGroups”.

adGroups=($(dscl /Active\ Directory/AD-DOMAIN/All\ Domains -read /Users/$USER memberOf | cut -d, -f1 | sed 's|CN=||g'))

Once we had these values we used a for loop to cycle through the array, reading the description fields of each of the groups and mount the resulting URLs.

 for group in "${adGroups[@]}”     # This line starts the loop, reading the array values and setting the result as a variable called “group"
    do
     groupMount=$(dscl /Active\ Directory/AD-DOMAIN/All\ Domains -read /Groups/$group Comment | sed 's|Comment: ||g' | sed 's:\\:/:g' | sed 's/ \/\///g' | tr -d '\n' | sed 's/ /%20/g’)
                    # The above line creates a new variable that reads the Comment attribute of the AD group, 
                    # the uses sed (a lot) to strip out unwanted text and convert backslashes into forward slashes
     mkdir /Volumes/$group
                    # The above line creates the mount point for the network drive
     mount -t smbfs //$@$groupMount /Volumes/$group
                    # The above line performs the actual drive mount (using Kerberos)
done

This script is a bit cut down, leaving out logging and error checking but demonstrates the use of the array in this case.

If you would like more information about Bash Scripting, download our free whitepaper.

iBeacon – Updated

Once of the most exciting features announced alongside iOS 7, and the one that has received very little publicly is iBeacon.

So what is iBeacon?

iBeacon is a new service that is part of iOS 7′s core location services. This service allows any iOS device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 to find and locate other Bluetooth Low Energy devices. By using iBeacon, a device can start transmitting its location, other iBeacon devices can locate them without using GPS or Wi-Fi location services. The range varies but can be up to 100 feet depending on the device. So once your phone is within range, it will detect the iBeacon.

A number of vendors are producing dedicated iBeacon transmitters. Here at Amsys we have been busy working with a number of  companies including  Estimote and Gimbal who produce a range of small transmitters.

estimote

 

These are very small devices. They are powered by a battery which gives the device enough power for 2 years. Once enabled, they start broadcasting a unique ID.

So the idea is, you can place one or more these devices at a location. For instance, a shop may place many of these devices around its store.  A museum may place them around specific exhibits.

The iOS device can then locate these devices. If multiple devices are detected, it can  work out which one is closer. It can even work out if you are getting nearer or further away from them.

So why get excited?

The power of these devices become apparent when you build the functionality into an app.

There are hundreds of examples but here are just a few.

  1.  A Retailer. By placing them around a shop floor, that shop’s app can locate where the user is, for instance to see if they near a specific product. By knowing the users location the app for instance could display specific information on that product they are viewing or maybe offer a discount voucher for it. Paypal are introducing a contactless payment system by using iBeacon. Even Apple are about to roll them out through their stores.
  2. A Gallery.  A gallery could use them easily to locate which painting a user is looking at, the gallery’s app would then show information on that painting.
  3. Exhibition Centre: By placing them next to exhibitor stands you could use them to not only navigate around the exhibition but also have relevant information as you pass specific stands/exhibitors.

As you can see,  there are endless possibilities. Basically, you can make better use of location based information and have a much better interactive experience with your customers/users.

A real life example is New York Mets baseball team. They recently did a test deployment. For instance, fans who purchased their tickets through the official app had a barcode of their ticket automatically displayed on their phone as they approach the entrance for the stadium. Once inside, the app guided them to their seat using their location. When they visited a merchandise stand they where offered some rewards points.

By using this new location service, you can make your apps much more personal and context aware.

At Amsys, we are currently working with a number of clients who are introducing this technology. One client is using them to identify spare meeting rooms. Each room has an iBeacon. As you approach the room, the app tells you whether the room is free or not.

The other nice thing about iBeacon is that the app does not need to be running. Instead, as you approach an iBeacon, a notification can be sent to the phone’s lock screen.

If you can see a use for this technology or would like some further information feel free to contact us.

Update for iOS 7.1

Apple have recently released iOS 7.1, quite a big update for iOS 7. One of the new features is in relation to iBeacon. When iBeacon was introduced, one of the ways you could utilise this service was to push a notification to the user when they reached a certain proximity with a beacon.

The caveat was that the app either had to be the foreground app or was parked in the background. Now with iOS 7.1 the app doesn’t even need to be running in the background for you to receive the notifications. Much more useful!

5 days to go until our open day in Manchester

manchester-sharp-project

If you haven’t heard, we have moved our training centre in Manchester to The Sharp Project! To celebrate, we are hosting an extra special day of free seminars, networking and Q & A sessions with our Apple Certified team.

We will be closing registrations for the seminars tomorrow (Friday) so there’s still time to confirm your free ticket. On the other hand, if you fancy just stopping by for one of the Q&A or networking sessions, please let us know so that we can add you to our visitor list.

What’s on!

  • iOS App Development – 2 HR Seminar
  • Advanced OS X Server – 1 HR Seminar
  • iOS Security & Deployment - 2 HR Seminar
  • Final Cut Pro X: The Professionals Editor – 1 HR Seminar
  • DaVinci Resolve 10: Edit, Grade and Deliver – 1 HR Seminar
  • Creative Cloud: The product of an hour - 1 HR Seminar
  • Q & A Sessions – Available throughout the day
  • Networking breakfast, lunch & Mac Meetup Drinks

View the complete schedule and to register online here.

And finally, if you are driving to the event we will need to know your name and car registration number, please email training@amsys.co.uk.

How to fix your LogMeIn passwords not being saved

If, like us on Amsys Service Desk, you use LogMeIn in a professional capacity to remotely support a multitude of clients or internal staff, then you may have come across a problem whereby LogMeIn has stopped saving or storing passwords even though you have ticked the box “Save credentials”.

logme in password credentials

As LogMeIn is a web or cloud based application, it stores its password within the Adobe Flash Plugin Storage Settings. The default storage is set at 100KB, but this finite amount is limited if you store a number of passwords.

You can increase the limitation of Adobe Flash Website Storage to a specific or unlimited amount. To access this setting, simply open a web browser and navigate to the Macromedia website.

When the above address loads, simply click on the tab “Website Storage Settings” (see the image below), and select the websites that you would like to change. In this particular case, logmein.com and secure.logmein.com, and move the slider to the right to increase the storage for that specific website.

flash player help

From here on in, your Adobe Flash Player Website Storage will be set to your greater amount and will increase the number of passwords you can store.

Amsys’ Mavericks OS X 10.9 Advanced Deployment course arrives!

Hello Mac fans!

Continuing my series of blogs reporting back from what’s new in the training world of Amsys, last week I delivered our first Advanced Deployment 10.9 course at our South London Apple training centre.

os x deployment mavericks

For those of you not already familiar with our OS X Advanced Deployment course, this course is designed for OS X System Administrators who need to know how to streamline the process of installing and configuring a large number of computers running OS X.

This course was created by myself to fill the gap left by Apple’s decision to retire their ACSA Deployment certification, which ended with Mac OS X 10.6.

I designed this course to provide plenty of hands on labs and to cover a wide range of real-world scenarios faced by Mac techs when asked to deploy Macs in a business or education environment.

Day One

As with all our courses, the first day kicked off with an introduction to the course and facilities.

As this is an advanced course, students should already have a good understanding of OS X and OS X server or have attended the OS X Support Essentials v10.9 and OS X Server Essentials v10.9 courses.

Experience using the command-line interface with OS X is also very useful as we spend a good while in the command-line.

The first section of the course gets the students to look into Deployment Planning.

You can never stress enough how important planning is when rolling out a new deployment. So we spend some time discussing comprehensive planning of a new deployment of Macs, providing students with a better awareness of how to develop a stable deployment strategy.

Deploying Individual Items and Containers is up next, where we look into how to install individual files, folders, Apps or compressed items.

With Mavericks, Apple has made App deployment more flexible so, in this section we explain all the options available to you when you are installing Mac App Store apps on multiple machines. We also look at how to manage the ownership of the apps. There is also a good discussion about Apple IDs.

Students always find this section useful as they try to get to grips with how best to install, remove and manage apps on Mac devices.

We wrap up day one with Installation Packages. We look at how Apple’s installer technology works for software distribution, including how to create custom installation packages using GUI tools and the command line.

There is also a dedicated appendix covering two alternative installation solutions, the open-source project Munki and the commercial Casper Suite.

Day Two

Creating Entire System Images is a key area for Mac deployment and so day two is dedicated to creating and deploying system images.

Last week my students were keen to know how to create full system images for a complete deployment of OS X Mavericks. So, they were more than pleased to  learn how to completely customise system images with automated tasks such as user account creation, Directory service binding and MDM auto enrollment.

We finish day two with a look at how to Deploy System Images, the students are tasked with the job of setting up Apple’s NetInstall service and creating and managing NetBoot, NetRestore and NetInstall System Images.

By the end of the day, students will be able to create and mass deploy customised system images, making deployment much easier than manually configuring one machine at a time!

Day Three

The final day is designed to tackle the issues of all those settings and software that you can’t deploy within your system image, therefore, this day explains Post Imaging Deployment Considerations and System Maintenance.

There are various techniques available to apply post installation configuration, such as setting the Firmware password, modifying preferences and Post Imaging Serialization. MDM solutions such as Apple’s Profile Manager are an option, as is scripting post deployment settings.

In today’s mobile world, keeping all company devices up-to-date and secure can be a big task. Consequently, this stage in the course invites students to discuss their own company’s environment needs and learn how to manage, track and monitor company computers, tablets and smartphones and how Apple’s solution, as well as the leading third party solutions, can handle this.

As well as management and security, updating software can sometimes be a difficult task to maintain.

We take a look into the Apple Software Update Service and Caching Service, as well as third party software update solutions, to see how updating Macs can be managed and simplified.
Additionally, a range of features available through Apple Remote Desktop are discussed.

The final day is largely dedicated to Deploying Macs with DeployStudio. So we take a look at the DeployStudio deployment package for additional Deployment features which work perfectly with Apple’s NetInstall service.

Through a collection of hands on labs, the students are able to configure pre and post imaging scripts to perform common tasks such as naming computers, binding to active directory and configuring other computer specific settings.

By the end of day three, last week, all my students had successfully progressed from understanding how to configure a Mac manually,  to how to fully automate an installation, configuration and management of an OS X Mavericks computer.

The benefits of understanding Mac Deployment:

Students who have successfully completed our Advanced Deployment course feel that it provides them with the key knowledge required to start customising the deployment and management of Macs.

Many will go on to attend one of our other bespoke Apple courses, specialising in a particular area of interest, such as our Directory Service or Advanced Server courses.

If you found this story interesting and would like to improve your Mac knowledge, please feel free to contact one of our helpful and friendly training team or take a look at our collection of Mavericks Training courses on our website.

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, “This file is locked for editing”

Whenever you save a Microsoft Office document (Word, Excel or PowerPoint) to your local hard drive or to a fileserver, an associated temporary file is created to the same location as your MS Office document. However, you will not be able to see the associated temporary file from within the Finder because it is a hidden file.

The associated temporary file remains present in the same location as your MS document until you close your document.

The purpose of this associated temporary file is to lockout editing of your MS document to other users while you have it open. The associated temporary file also stores the name of the person who currently has the MS document open, and if another user attempts to open the document, it displays a warning dialogue (see below) to inform them that, “The file is locked for editing”.

microsoft files locked for editing
You can open the document as Read-Only, but you will not be able to edit the document. This is by-design and prevents other users overwriting your work, or even worse causing document corruption.

To clarify, if a user has opened an existing or created an Excel document entitled Example.xlsx, while this document is open there will be an associated temporary file entitled ~$Example.xlsx in the same location as your Excel document. The temporary file is named the same as the Excel document but prefixed with ~$ symbols.

The problem with using an associated temporary file is that if the MS Office application crashes then it is likely that the associated temporary file remains and locks the MS Office document.

Typically this problem is identified when another user attempts to open the MS document, and their MS Office application displays the warning dialogue “The file is locked for editing”, and this is despite anyone else on the same network having the MS document open.

The resolution for this document locking problem would be as follows:

  • Ask the person whose name appears in the warning dialogue, to open the MS document, make a small change to the MS document, File > Save the document, and then close the document. This should then clear the associated temporary file and, therefore, unlock the MS document.
  • Open the MS document as Read-Only, File > Save As, and save the MS document with a different file name.
  • Using the application Terminal (Applications/Utilities), navigate to where the MS document is saved, list all files including hidden files (in Terminal type ls -a), identify the MS documents associated temporary file (remember it will be the same name as your MS document, but prefixed with a ~$), and remove the associated temporary file by using a Terminal remove file command (rm <name of file>). Note: Use the rm command within the Terminal with caution as the removed file is deleted immediately and not moved to Trash.
  • Alternative to using the Terminal app would be to download one of the many free utilities to show/hide hidden files. There are many of these free apps but one I have used is InVisible which when opened is accessible very quickly from your Finders top menubar. It makes toggling between visible/invisible very quick and user friendly.

This MS document locked file issue is a fairly common occurrence so I hope that this article goes some way to explaining how it happens and that the resolutions outlined above help resolve issues that you may experience.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

Mavericks Tip: How to disable power button sleep in 10.9

Greetings Mac Community!

Back in January I blogged about “How to Instantly Lock your OS X Screen in 10.9‘.

In this blog I mentioned that Mavericks has changed the default behaviour when pressing the Power button key.

You can no longer simply press the power button key to bring up the ‘Restart, Sleep, Cancel, Shut Down’ pop up.

In Mavericks, you can hold down the Control key whilst pressing either the power button or the Media Eject key (eject button mavericks) if you have one, to bring up this menu to quickly choose one of these options:

disable power button in mavericks

As an update to this feature, here’s a couple of additional useful pieces of information.

Firstly, if you press the power button for less than a half a second on a Mavericks computer, this will initiate the “sleep” or “wake” your Mac feature.

However, if you press and hold the power button for at least 2 seconds, (Apple state 1.5 seconds!) this will bring up the additional ‘Restart, Sleep, Cancel, Shut Down’ options. So the feature is still there, but it requires HOLDING the power button down instead of just pressing it.

Secondly, you can actually disable the power button sleep feature so that pressing the power button will bring up the ‘Restart, Sleep, Cancel, Shut Down’ pop up menu.

Here’s how to completely disable the power button sleep feature:

Simply enter the following command in Terminal, ensuring you are logged in as an admin user:

sudo defaults write com.apple.loginwindow 
PowerButtonSleepsSystem -bool no

I have noticed that this command seems to be unreliable on older models which have a SILVER power button. If you have a newer Mac with a BLACK power button then this command works fine!

Thirdly, you can force the Mac to immediately turn off by holding down the power button key for at least 5 seconds.

Important: You may lose unsaved documents if you force the computer to turn off this way. Use this method for turning off your Mac only if it has become unresponsive for an extended period of time.

Normally you should shut down the computer by selecting “Shut Down” from the Apple menu, or from the shut down dialog as pictured above.

Apple has posted full details of the power button sleep feature in Mavericks on this Apple Support Article.

To learn how to support and troubleshoot OS X Mavericks, come on our OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course!

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.2 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

How to block your contacts from messages and FaceTime apps

If you’re being stalked or pranked over iMessage or FaceTime, you can block that contact and prevent them from bothering you ever again.

It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s oh-so-gratifying. If there’s an especially annoying someone you’ve been waiting to ignore, here’s how to do it!

With the OS X Mavericks 10.9.2 update, amongst the bug and security fixes, Apple also introduced a feature that had been missing for iMessage users on the Mac – the ability to block individual contacts within the Messages and FaceTime app.

Block your Messages Contacts in Mavericks:

1. Go your Message app and select preferences and click blocked

click on blocked2. Click on the plus icon

block contacts in mavericks message3. Select the contact you wish to block

choose from the list of contacts4. Your contact will be successfully blocked from sending you future messages

now you contact is blocked

Block your FaceTime Contacts in Mavericks:

1. Open FaceTime and go to preferences, at the bottom of this pane, select “blocked”

block facetime on mavericks step 1

2. Now select the plus icon

block facetime mavericks step 2

3. Choose the contact you want to block

block facetime contacts step 3

4. Your blocked contact will now appear in your blocked contacts panel

facetime block contacts in mavericks

Retraining with Amsys: Hugo’s story

We first met Hugo Cortes, early on in 2013 on one of our ACMT courses as he was looking to retrain following a career change from a professional dancer.

Hugo was born in Brazil and has always had a passion for music, art and technology. As a young child, Hugo was really shy, and his mum encouraged him to get into acting in order to boost his communication skills and confidence.

From that point, Hugo was hooked, having found his love for performing he knew that he wanted to become a professional dancer. However, in Brazil, a degree doesn’t always guarantee a career and Hugo knew that he had to learn other skills in order to survive. Consequently, from the tender age of 7 he was always looking for ways to make money, and this is how he discovered his other passion, technology!

Originally, Hugo was a PC guy, however; he quickly became fed up with constantly having to fix certain problems that are typical of PC computers. As many of Hugo’s friends were Apple users they encouraged him to try out a Mac, and he instantly fell in love with the OS, quickly snapping up all of Apple products!

hugo cortes in stomp

When Hugo wasn’t busy working, he was reading how Macs work, however, as much of his time was being spent performing at some of the big shows in London such as Stomp, taking his ACMT certification was put on the back burner for a few years!

However in 2013, he had to take some time out from his artistic career, and, therefore, had the time to pursue his other passions and signed up for the Amsys ACMT course.

Following his course, he came along to one of our Mac Meetups and spoke to James about the Amsys apprenticeship. We were more than eager for him to join us, as not only was now ACMT certified, but had impeccable people skills too!

hugo cortes amsys

Hugo has now been at Amsys for 6 months, and his day-to-day role involves the assessment and repairs of the many out of warranty Macs that our workshop receives. Even though his two careers couldn’t be more different, Hugo has taken a lot from the discipline and work ethic as a professional performer into the professional and demanding environment of an Apple Technician.

“It has been fun to break apart from something I’ve been doing for so long and challenge myself to take on a new career… I have taken a lot from my success as a professional dancer into my new career in IT… By working hard and constantly staying up to date with the latest tech.” Hugo Cortes

If you are looking to retrain or change careers, please speak to our helpful and friendly training team who will be happy to advise you on the next best steps to take.

Amsys Manchester has moved! Come visit us on our open day!

apple training centre manchester

Earlier this month our Manchester based Apple Authorised Training Centre, that we share with Soho Editors, moved to the Sharp Project and we’d like to invite you to our official launch party!

What’s the Sharp Project?

The Sharp Project is a 200,000 sqft refurbished warehouse, previously the base for electronics company, Sharp. Inside, you can expect to find cutting edge facilities, breakout areas, pool tables and an onsite restaurant. The Sharp Project is conveniently located just outside Manchester’s City Centre with excellent public transport links and onsite car park, read more about the Amsys Manchester’s new home here.

Official Launch

On Tuesday 25th March, we will be hosting our open day, with a range of free seminars and workshops, presented by our industry-certified experts, who will be offering tips for OS X Server, App Development and iOS Management and much more.

Network with fellow industry professionals during the complementary breakfast, lunch and ‘Mac meet-up’ drinks later in the day, or on the lighter side, you can also join in with pool, table-tennis and table football competitions during the day and show us some of your skills.

“‘We’d love to see people from the technical and creative community join us on what promises to be a worthwhile day for everyone, offering us a chance to showcase what we can do, and visitors a chance to pick up some tips and tricks.” Alex Hawes (our MD).

Launch Schedule

manchester event schedule

Seminar Detail:

iOS App Development

This session, led by Apple Master IT Trainer, Richard Mallion, is an in-depth exploration into what’s involved in iOS App Development. You’ll learn about the different app development options available, which tools to use and we will also delve into the design process.

Advanced OS X Server

During this in-depth, one-hour workshop, Richard will teach you the advanced aspects of configuring, administering and troubleshooting OS X Server.

iOS Security & Deployment

During this 2 hour seminar, Richard will demonstrate some of the key processes, skills and tools needed to successfully deploy, configure and secure iOS devices for your organisation.

Final Cut Pro X: The Professionals Editor

The latest release of Final Cut Pro X’s Professional software for editors: in our seminar our experts will be demonstrating the amazing performance and new features of FCP X (10.1).

DaVinci Resolve 10: Edit, Grade and Deliver

Our seminar will be showcasing Resolve’s amazing new capabilities, featuring the ability to edit, colour, sound sync and deliver all from one application.

Creative Cloud: The product of an hour:

Adobe Certified Expert Alan Bradbury gives us a whistle stop tour of Creative Cloud big guns Photoshop and InDesign, on the way we learn how to create a quick, yet convincing product mock up, which we then turn into an app for a mobile device.

Q & A

Throughout the day, the Amsys team will be on hand to answer any questions that you may have about managing and supporting Apple products within your organisation. This is open to education and business leaders, managers and contractors.

The Soho Editors team will also be on hand to answer any creative questions, you may have.

 

Ticket Registration

This is a free event; however there are a limited amount of tickets available for the seminars therefore advance booking is essential to avoid disappointment!

If you are not looking to take one of our seminars you are still welcome to join us for a bit of light refreshment, games and networking.

To request further information, or to register for the event and confirm your place on any of the seminars, please fill in the form below, or email training@amsys.co.uk.

OS X 10.9.2 released – Fixes SSL issue

So after releasing the iOS 6.1.6 and iOS 7.0.6 to fix the SSL issue, Apple have just released the 10.9.2 update for Mavericks, which also fixes the same issue with Mavericks.

If you are running Mavericks, we strongly suggest you run your software update and patch your system. If you are running earlier versions of OS X then you are not affected.

As well as fixing the SSL bug, the 10.9.2 update also adds the following goodies:

  • Adds the ability to make and receive FaceTime audio calls
  • Adds call waiting support for FaceTime audio and video calls
  • Adds the ability to block incoming iMessages from individual senders
  • Improves the accuracy of unread counts in Mail
  • Resolves an issue that prevented Mail from receiving new messages from certain providers
  • Improves AutoFill compatibility in Safari
  • Fixes an issue that may cause audio distortion on certain Macs
  • Improves reliability when connecting to a file server using SMB2
  • Fixes an issue that may cause VPN connections to disconnect
  • Improves VoiceOver navigation in Mail and Finder

SSL Vulnerability

On Friday, Apple released iOS 7.0.6,  a small maintenance release that turns out fixes a very important issue with Apple’s implementation of SSL.

SSL is used to encrypt network data traffic. This is used heavily with web traffic and plays an important part in securing any data passed between your client and the service you are using.

The bug in question could allow a network intruder or hacker to capture or modify your encrypted data. The attacker could potentially masquerade as the website you are visiting, and either access any data such as user name and passwords or worse pass back malware or other harmful code. It looks like the attacker can only pull this attack off if they are on the same physical wired network or same WI-FI network. So if you are concerned, avoid any public Wi-Fi networks until you patch your iOS 7 device.

The 7.0.6 patch for iOS fixes this issue, so all users of iOS 7 are recommend that they update immediately.

Apple have also released the same patch for iOS 6 users.

As far as OS X is concerned, it also suffers from the same vulnerability. Apple have commented that they are working on a patch, and it will be released soon. As soon as it is we recommend you update asap. [UPDATE: It seems only Mavericks OS X 10.9 suffers from this bug]

Apple have released a Tech Note article which you can read here.

If you want to check if your device has the vulnerability then visit this web site via your browser https://gotofail.com

Note not all browsers are affected. Safari is because it uses the SSL libraries that have this issue, while Google Chrome, on the other hand, does not.

So another recommendation for OS X users is to switch to Chrome until Apple patch the issue.

Learn to access iCloud & remote data sources in your iOS App

You would be surprised to learn how many apps on the App store access the core data they require over some sort of cloud service. The back-end hosting this data can vary quite a bit, from iCloud, a hosted CRM system or corporate database.ios icloud training

As long as these services have allowed for access via an open standard, it’s possible to connect our iOS Apps to them.

What’s involved:

  • Overview: First off, you will need to get to grips with all the different types of services and scenarios that are available to you to host your data.
  • Understanding iCloud: Apple’s iCloud has some great features available which will allow you to store your app’s data in the cloud. By using the APIs available and a ton of other features, you can create a seamless experience across iCloud enabled devices.

iCloud Storage:

There are 3 kinds of storage available within iCloud, and you will need to know which one to use to suit you app, as each storage option has its own set of capabilities.

  • Key-Value Storage: This is can be used for small amounts of data to store discrete values such as app preferences and configuration. Key Value Storage is similar to local user defaults database except each value will be available in every instance of your app.
  • iCloud and UIDocument: Since iOS 5, you can now store documents and other data in your user’s iCloud accounts by using UIDocument. This should be used if you want to manage data that is important to your app and user.
  • iCloud and Core Data: By utilising iCloud Core Data storage, you can make the content in a single window or database app available across all of your user’s devices.

Accessing Third Party Services:

  • RSS: You can use RSS, which is a simple way of fetching data from a web based server, whether it’s textual information or images. As a developer, you will need to learn how to use the Classes that Apple offer to fetch RSS feeds.
  • Restful services: You will need to know how to access data using restful APIs, which is one of the most common ways to access data remotely.
  • JSON: JSON is the modern way of accessing remote data due to the elegant way it’s implemented and the lightweight payloads it produces. You need to know how to access remote data using JSON.

Other Services & Security:

  • Web Services: Apple have recently introduced the NSURLSession framework, which is a suite of classes that has replaced NSURLConnection as the preferred method of networking and can now be used to access web services.
  • Push Notifications : To let your users know new messages, updates or other information, you will need to know how add “push notifications” to your app.
  • Authentication: Most remote data will require some sort of authentication. You should know the main methods used to achieve this, including user name/passwords and tokens.
  • Keychain: Once you have mastered the authentication process you will need to know how to use Apple’s Keychain service and how to use it to secure save your users’ credentials locally.
  • Security: Finally, security is a big issue, and any iOS App developer will need to understand both over the air security and local security to ensure the validity of your app.
We have launched our iCloud and Remote Data course. This is a 3 day course that will take you through the key technologies in accessing data over the air. You will learn how to implement all the functionality and techniques as mentioned above, plus much more.

OS X Support Essentials 10.9 lands at Amsys!

Greetings again from Amsys Training! Following on from my previous blog about OS X Server Essentials 10.9, last week I had the pleasure of delivering my first OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course!

Despite being the first Amsys Trainer to deliver the Mavericks Server course, I was the last to deliver the Mavericks Support course. I guess that’s only fair!

For those of you not already familiar with the Apple OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course, this course is designed to give students a tour of the breadth of OS X Mavericks and the best methods for effectively supporting users of OS X Mavericks systems.

The new Mavericks 101 OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course keeps true to the Apple training format and is a great update to the previous 10.8 version.

mavericks 101 training

Day One

As with all courses, the first day kicks off with an introduction to the course and facilities. Last week, most of my students were fairly new to the Mac platform, so I was determined to show them what it can do!

The first section of the course gets the students to look into the installation and configuration of OS X Mavericks. For some of the students, this was their first real look at OS X, and I’m pleased to say that everyone successfully configured their Mac systems and were ready to start delving deeper into the file system.

User Accounts were covered in the afternoon session, where we investigated User home folders and System security.

  •     Security is certainly an increasing concern in today’s digital world and Apple’s built-in solutions to secure user data are highlighted here.

Day Two

The second day of the course stat off with some of the key areas to master, File Systems and Data Management.

By understanding file system permissions, how they work, how to view, modify and troubleshoot them is certainly a useful tool for any IT technician. We also show students how to access hidden items and how OS X handles Metadata.

Applications and Processes

Installing, running applications and working with documents are most people’s main reason for using a computer.

Therefore, we spend some time looking into these areas as it is important for technicians to know how the operating system installs and runs applications and background processes as this knowledge is key to being able to resolve user’s issues with documents and applications that are not running correctly. OS X includes some great built-in features for apps and documents.

The Mac App Store is covered to explain how Apple handles applications. Plus with the tight integration of iCloud, students learn how easy it is to manage documents across multiple Mac devices.

Day Three

The final day encompasses two areas:

  •     Network Configuration & Services.
  •     System Management.

The networking lessons come in very handy to any technician who needs to setup a Mac on an existing network or indeed troubleshoot a Mac’s network connection. There is a collection of labs that create real-world scenarios where students have to work through a systematic troubleshooting process to resolve the loss of network connection.

The System Management section completes the course by explaining how OS X handles Peripherals and drivers, Printer configuration and management and then rounds up with a lesson on System troubleshooting.

Students learn what happens in the background when you power up a Mac and see all the startup processes required to successfully authenticate a user to OS X.

All the troubleshooting boot modes you can startup a Mac to are also covered, with more scenarios for students to act out to troubleshoot system issues.

By the end of day three, all my students had successfully configured an OS X mavericks computer through a variety of scenarios, and we also spent some time going through their own environment setups to see how they could apply the knowledge that they had acquired.

Alas, it was then exam time! Before taking the exam, my students had time to refer to the official student book and to test their knowledge using the Amsys Revise IT iOS app.

Well done to all those who attended the course and were brave enough to attempt the exam on the last day and pass, you’ve made me proud! Since this is a fairly new certification, they are now amongst the first, of hopefully many, to achieve the Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) 10.9 certification and half way towards achieving their Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (AATC)!

The benefits of ACSP

Most students who have successfully completed their Support Essentials course and passed the exam feel that Apple’s Support Professional certification provides them with the key knowledge required to start configuring and supporting Mac client computers. Many will go on to attend the Server Essentials course to get to grips with the server side, or perhaps attend one of our bespoke Apple courses specialising in a particular area of interest.

If this journey to Apple certification and knowledge of Apple’s new Mavericks OS is something you’d be interested in, please feel free to contact one of our helpful and friendly training team or take a look at our collection of Mavericks Training courses on our website here.

Office 365 resources for Mac admins

Over the last year or so we have seen a lot of our customer base move away from internally hosting their own email servers to cloud based giants like Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps.

Cloud hosted email is not for everyone, and I hope to share my thoughts and experiences about this over the coming months along with some ideas, how-tos, and other useful tips and advice.

Perhaps the Mac Admins out there could share some of your own experiences with us by commenting below!

Regarding Microsoft Office 365 email, contacts, calendars, apps services (or SAAS, software-as-a-service), and the administration of this service, I have put together an “Office 365 Resources for Mac Admins” matrix of useful information and links as a quick reference for all you Mac Admins out there.

I look forward to adding more related articles regarding this service soon, so sign up to the blog so that you don’t miss out!

Office 365 Portal URLs:

URL
https://login.microsoftonline.com  Main Office 365 Portal Login
https://outlook.office365.com  Direct Portal Login to OWA (Outlook Web App)

 

Office 365 Email Settings:

SERVER NAME PORT ENCRYPTION PROTOCOL
outlook.office365.com  995  SSL  POP3
outlook.office365.com  993  SSL  IMAP
smtp.office365.com  587  TLS  SMTP

 

Note: Although you can configure your email client to use POP3 or IMAP protocols this would only support the email services provided by Office 365. To provide full support for Office 365 (inc. Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Tasks) configure your email client to use Exchange rather than POP3 or IMAP.

Below is a list of compatible email clients with support for EWS (Exchange Web Service).

Recommended Email Clients that support EWS (Exchange Web Services):

Vendor Product Version Platform Notes URL
Apple Mail 5.0 (and above) iOS
Apple Mail 4.0 (and above) Macintosh  Mail 4.0
bundled with Mac  OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard gained support for Exchange Server
2007 with EWS
Microsoft Entourage 13.1.6 (Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition) Macintosh For EWS (Exchange Web Services) support download the Entourage Web Services Edition
patch.
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36923
Microsoft Outlook 2007 Windows
Microsoft Outlook 2010 Windows
Microsoft Outlook 2011 Macintosh
Microsoft Outlook 2013 Windows
Microsoft Windows 8 Mail Windows 8 Mail Windows

 

Official Microsoft Resources:

Title URL
Microsoft Office office.microsoft.com
Microsoft Office Support http://office.microsoft.com/support/
Microsoft Office 365 Admin Resource Centre http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/support/office-365-administrator-resource-center-FX103995410.aspx
Microsoft Office 365 Community http://blogs.office.com
Microsoft Office Blog http://office.microsoft.com
Microsoft Office 365 for Business Blog http://blogs.office.com/office365forbusiness/
Microsoft Office for Mac http://www.microsoft.com/mac

 

Testing, Tools, other Resources:

Title Notes URL
Microsoft Office 365 Admin App Mobile device App for Office 365 Admins that has the ability to connect to your organisations Office 365 status page. This App is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone platforms. Available via your mobile devices app store. Search for keywords
“Office 365 Admin”. More info…http://community.office365.com/en-us/wikis/manage/office-365-admin-app-faq.aspx
Microsoft Remote
Connectivity Analyzer;
Microsoft’s web tool for testing for Office 365, Exchange, ActiveSync, Autodiscover, and more. https://testconnectivity.microsoft.com
MX Toobox Web based tool for testing and querying DNS, Domain Reputation, and much more. http://mxtoolbox.com/

 

Other Resources:

Title Description URL
Office 365 Answers Great Office 365 resource run by Microsoft MVP Brett Hill who was formerly the Technical
Readiness Manager for Online Services at Microsoft.
http://www.office365answers.com

The impact of a larger iPhone

It’s that time of year when speculation begins on whether the next iPhone, let’s call it the iPhone 6, will have a larger screen that the current crop of devices.

Apple are the only major phone manufacture that does not offer a larger screen. Until now this has not effected their sales, but there is quite a considerable market out there waiting for a large format iPhone from Apple. It must be only a matter of time before they do.

So if they do, what size screen will they release, but more importantly what will the resolution be?

Previous and current phones

Apple has already changed the iPhone’s screen resolution or aspect ratio twice.

The original iPhone that shipped in 2007 had a screen resolution of  320 x 480 pixels at 163 pixels per inch. The first transition was when Apple introduced the retina display with the iPhone 4. Apple had quite a few options when designing this phone. They opted to keep the screen the same physical size, with the same aspect ratio as the first iPhone but instead doubled the number of pixels in each axis, thus giving the iPhone 4 a resolution of 640 x 960 pixels at 326 pixels per inch.

The reason they opted for this was mainly to make life easier for developers. By keeping the same physical dimensions as the original iPhone, all apps would run unchanged on the new screen. Every object would appear in the same location no matter which device it ran on. The only ‘upgrade’ to the app the developer needed to do was to supply any artwork at twice the previous resolution so it would look crisp on the higher ppi screen, apart from that, the apps ran unmodified.

Life got slightly interesting for developers when they introduced the iPhone 5. Here they decided to change the form factor of the screen. Physically it was the same width as all previous iPhones, but had now grown in height. Its resolution was now 640 x 1136 pixels at 326 ppi.

So what did this mean for developers?

Well the width of any app was not an issue but the height was. The iPhone 5 had an extra 176 pixels in height. Apple quite correctly did not stretch existing apps to fill this extra space. What they chose to do was to run older style apps letterboxed. This extra height was blacked out and the apps ran at the same size as they would have on the smaller iPhone 4.

Thus we still had backward compatibility with older apps. When the developer updated their app, they could  then decide what do with the extra space. Some made screen elements slightly bigger to fill the extra space, some added additional functionality or move items around to fill the space. So the iPhone 5 was the first time Apple changed the aspect ratio of the iPhone. Apple have given the developers  quite a few new tools to help them write apps that are almost resolution independent, including a really nice tool called AutoLayout.

The Future

So assuming Apple does introduce a larger iPhone this year what will they do? There are several ways they could go.

  • One option is that they keep the existing resolution of 640 x 1136 but just scale the physical size of the screen up accordingly. Maybe 4.5 or 4.8 inches. The benefit for developers would be enormous. Because the aspect ratio and resolution would not change, their apps would run unmodified.This is in fact what we get between the iPad Mini and Pad Air, they both run at the same resolution but the Mini has a higher pixels per inch count than the Air. This approach would work fine.The downside though might be with the marketing.

    By increasing the physical size but keeping the resolution constant, the pixels per inch would drop from 326 ppi to around 260 ppi. This is a what happens with the iPads but this might be a hard stat to sell.

  • The second option is that they make the phone bigger and change the resolution. The simplest option for developers would be to do the same trick that the retina screens did, which is you proportionally increase the resolution of each axis.So the retina iPhone 4 used a 2x  scaling, the new phone could use either a 3x or 4x scaling.If 3x was used this would give us a resolution of 960 x 1704, with 4x we get a whopping 1280 x 2272.Again for developers this is a good option. Because we have the same aspect ratio, all apps would run unmodified apart from having to supply even larger versions of their artwork to make use of the high resolution display.

    However, for the phone itself, there would be one downside, these screen would run at 400-500 pixels per inch. This would have a large impact on battery life and the GPU. Also, beyond 300 pixels per inch, I doubt anyone could seriously notice the difference in quality.

  • The final option is that they go for a completely new and different screen size, aspect ratio and resolution. For Apple this would give them more options in how the final phone looked, no legacy. For developers this is the worst case scenario.Unless their apps were using the latest technologies, such as AutoLayout, their app would not run correctly, and even with this technology there is no guarantee all would be OK.

    Again, Apple could repeat the trick of letterboxing older apps on both axis until they where updated. Would Apple do this? Of course they would. Would developers like it? Nope,  but they would have no choice.

The other thing to think about is – what do you want from a bigger phone? You can either choose to see more on the screen or  to see the same amount of content but everything is physically larger. So far Apple have gone down the route of showing the same content but making it larger on the bigger devices. Personally, I would like to see more content but I suspect Apple will keep the status quo.

So we may get a larger iPhone this year. If so, my children will not eat for a few months, but equally Apple could decide the current size is optimal.

It should be an interesting year. We should get our first hints of what is coming at this year’s World Wide Developer Conference in June. Here Apple will announce any new OS’s which may give us a clue in the direction Apple is going.

Bash Scripting: Functions

This month I’ve decided to make a return to my Bash Scripting series. I’ve recently discovered and made use of a new item in scripting bash, called “functions”. So… what are functions? Say you’ve written a script in bash. You have plenty of logging to a log file, but each log file entry is also mirrored out to the command line (helpful for running the script manually). To do this normally, you’d need to use two commands per output. E.g.

echo “script starting...” >> $logfile
echo “script starting...”

Say you also want to use want to use timestamps, you’d then need three lines. E.g.

currentDate=`date`
echo $currentDate “script starting...” >> $logfile
echo $currentDate “script starting...”

Now to use this throughout your script, you’ll be adding three lines per line of message, also introducing typos and mistakes that could either give incorrect information, conflicting information or even make the script error out. What can I do? Use a function. Functions can load a set series of tasks and set them to be triggered by a word, in much the same way as loading a variable. The function needs to be set before it’s used in the script but otherwise acts the same as any other Bash command like ‘cp’ or ‘rm’. The format of the function is as follows:

function [name] {
[command]
}

Lets go through this section-by-section:

  •  ”function” – This should be used as is and informs the script that you are loading a function. Leave a space after this.
  • “[name]“ – This is the name you want to store the function under and the same name you will use to call it back. This should be created with the same rules as a variable (e.g. no special characters, no spaces). There should be a space after this.
  • “{“ – This is the open bracket to denote the start of the commands to run when the variable is called. There doesn’t need to be a return after this, but it’s better practice to do so. At minimum, there should be a space following.
  • “[command]“ – This is where you’d add your commands you want the function to run. Each new command should be on a new line.
  •  ”}” – This is the close bracket to denote the end of the commands to run when the variable is called.

Okay, I think I get it… Don’t worry; it makes more sense if we return to our issue. What we should do is add the repeated items into a function, then call this as required. Let’s create that function now:

function write_to_Log_and_screen {
		currentDate=`date`
		echo $currentDate >> $logfile
		echo $currentDate 
}

Now I’d call this in a script as follows:

write_to_Log_and_screen

This would result in the current date being added to both the log file and the terminal output, replacing 3 lines of code with one in each area you use it.

Amsys - Darren:~ darrenwallace$ /Users/darrenwallace/Desktop/function_example.sh 
Wed 12 Feb 2014 12:45:20 GMT
Amsys - Darren:~ darrenwallace$

But how do I add more text? OK, so the above doesn’t quite replace the functionality, as we’re not saving any real information to the log or terminal. To do that, we need to make a change to our function, and how we use it. By default, the “$1” variable is the first variable password to a command. We need to add this variable to the function as follows:

function write_to_Log_and_screen {
		currentDate=`date`
		echo $currentDate $1 >> $logfile
		echo $currentDate $1
}

Now we have the function configured, we need to modify how we use it. Call the function as before, but enter whatever text you want in the log in speech marks following the function call. E.g.

write_to_Log_and_screen “This is a test

Which should produce the following:

Amsys - Darren:~ darrenwallace$ /Users/darrenwallace/Desktop/function_test.sh 
Wed 12 Feb 2014 14:04:58 GMT This is a test
Amsys - Darren:~ darrenwallace$

And there you have it, a working function to write to the log and the terminal window during scripts. Example Now I’ll show you two scripts. Both are identical, except the first writes the log entries manually, and the second uses the function command to show the different lengths of scripts. Example 1: No function.

#!/bin/bash
 
# Logfile varible 
logfile="/Users/$USER/Desktop/test.log"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 1" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 1"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 2" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 2"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 3" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 3"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 4" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 4"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 5" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 5"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 6" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 6"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 7" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 7"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 8" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 8"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 9" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 9"
 
	currentDate=`date`
	echo $currentDate "test line 10" >> $logfile
	echo $currentDate "test line 10"
 
exit 0

Example 2: With a function.

#!/bin/bash
 
# Logfile varible 
logfile="/Users/$USER/Desktop/test.log"
 
# Function to write to the logfile, but will also output the same information to the terminal window.
function write_to_Log {
	currentDate=`date`
		echo $currentDate $1 >> $logfile
		echo $currentDate $1
}
 
	write_to_Log "test line 1"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 2"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 3"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 4"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 5"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 6"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 7"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 8"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 9"
 
	write_to_Log "test line 10"
 
exit 0

Using this example, we have reduced the number of lines by 13 and reduced the complexity when reading the script at the same time. Summary And that’s it for this month, hopefully this overview of function and examples of its use will give you other ideas on using it in your scripts. Feel free to share your examples in the comments below.

Learn how to implement Core Data in your iOS App

core dataIn today’s competitive and advanced mobile market, it is essential that iOS developers know how to develop apps that can manage and access data efficiently. This is one of the key advantages in knowing how to implement Core Data for your iOS App.

What is Core Data?

Core Data is a powerful and versatile Framework used to manage relational data. Core Data allows you to use Apple’s native Objective-C language to access your data within your app, whether you are reading, writing or searching.  If your iOS app stores user generated data locally, caches data locally or supplies pre-loaded data to the user – it should be using Core Data.

This is a key skill that every iOS developer should learn.

What’s involved with Core Data?

Data Modelling:

Data modelling is the demonstration, via flowcharts or diagrams, of all possible relationships between data within an app. To illustrate these sometimes complex relationships, you will need to know how to create databases and entities, as well as how to configure attributes and relationships.

This can be a time-intensive process and certainly shouldn’t be rushed, as this is an incredibly important step to ensure you develop a functional and successful app!

Data Persistence:

This is the function that enables an app to save data, which we do learn about on our beginner iOS app dev course. However, there are far more advanced levels available to developers, for example, the creation of managed objects, which can then be used to save data.

Fetching Data:

Once the data is saved, the app will need to be able to access the data when requested. This function is implemented by creating a fetch request, then by sorting the data and finally creating predicates to fetch the data.

Predicates:

This is fantastic tool within Core Data! By understanding how to use and set predicates, you can create an app that will return results for a rich variety of complex queries!

iOS 7:

Once the previous steps have been mastered, you will need know how to link the Core Data with your iOS project! This is done by feeding all the app’s data into a variety of iOS objects, such as tables and pickers.

Background Processing:

To allow your app to perform other tasks not related to Core Data, like user interaction with the interface, you can set the app to access the Core Data in the background.

Pre-loading Data:

If you want your app to show certain data once it has been installed, you will need to pre-load the core data with some default data.

We have just launched our Core Data course, for iOS developers. This is a 3 day course that will show you how to implement Core Data into your app. You will learn all the skills and techniques above plus, much, much more!

Courses are available in Central London, South London or Manchester.

OS X Server Essentials 10.9 arrives at Amsys!

Greetings from Amsys Training HQ!

Following on from Hugo’s blog announcing the exciting news that Mavericks has come to town, I was the lucky trainer given the pleasure of delivering our very first OS X Server Essentials 10.9 course!

server essentials osx course

 

As Hugo explained, the OS X Server Essentials 10.9 course continues in much of the same format as the previous 10.8 version, but Apple has added some nice changes.

Our first Mavericks 201 OS X Server Essentials 10.9 course kicked off this Monday in our Soho training centre, and followed this structure, as all of our OS X Server Essentials courses do.

Day One

The students were introduced to the course and were rather excited about being the first class to get to grips with the new Server.app version 3 and OS X 10.9!

We then delved into the first chapter on Configuring & Monitoring Mavericks Server. As everyone had previously completed their OS X Support Essentials 10.9 they were now entering new territory by exploring the server side of Apple.

I’m pleased to say that everyone successfully configured their very first Apple server, even configuring DNS records successfully!

Day Two

We introduced the more common services of a Mac Server that companies use to supplement existing Windows services when Mac devices have been introduced into their environment.

We kicked off with an explanation on Apple’s Directory Service: Open Directory.

Those familiar with Microsoft’s Active Directory service find this lesson useful, as they find out how they can use a Mac Server to assist Active Directory with network services for their OS X users, plus how an OS X server can handle global password policies.

Profile Manager version 3 was up next. Certainly a big selling point of Mavericks Server.

Profile Manager is Apple’s own native management solution to configure OS X and iOS devices so that you can use your company or school’s resources and have all the settings, apps, and books that your organization requires.

In Mavericks Server, Apple has added some new features, as well as streamlining the service. The most notable addition is the support for the App Store and VPP integration.

Profile Manager is one of the main areas where students start to think about their own environments, especially where employees or students in education bring in the own device, (commonly known as BYOD).

After lunch, we then took a look at File Services and permissions. There has been some significant changes to file sharing in Mavericks, and the course gets the students to have hands-on practice with these changes.

Day two ends with Deployment Solutions & Caching Services.

This is usually the other chapter that offers the most benefit to technicians who will be implementing Macs into an existing network.

The NetInstall service is explained with some great exercises to allow students to get to grips with how to create, and deploy system images to OS X computers.

Next up is the Caching Service.

Mavericks Server, includes the updated version 2 of the Caching Service, along with some extra features as well as more content available to be cached.

This service is such a useful tool to have, as it allows OS X and iOS devices to efficiently download and install new or updated content distributed by Apple through the Internet.

Day Three

The final day encompasses two areas: Network Services and Collaborative Services.

These chapters cover some services that may already be configured on an existing network such as DHCP, VPN, Web and Mail, but it’s certainly useful to see how these work on an OS X server.

You never know, you may have to setup a Mac Server as the primary server in a new installation whereby everything is Mac!

Day three is especially useful for organisations who are not already using Microsoft’s network suite of services such as Active Directory and Exchange or similar services.  Students learn just how a Mac Server can help manage and secure company data sent via ethernet or Wi-Fi, whether it’s as an email, a calendar event, instant message and more.

By the end of day three, all my students could successfully navigate their way though the various of scenarios, such as configuring Mavericks Server and testing the results on a client test server.

We also spent some time where my students could throw real world questions at me to see how the theory and tools we just covered in the class can be used to tackle and resolve their own environment situations.

Now my students were ready for the dreaded exam! Rarely do these moments bring any form of joy to the examinees, especially when it comes to clicking the submit button at the end of the test to see the resulting score!

Prior to the test, my students refreshed their memory using the official student book and Amsys Revise IT iOS app.

And, I’m pleased to report, all the students successfully passed their exam, making me a very proud trainer! They are now the first, of hopefully many, to achieve the acclaimed Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) 10.9 certification!

The benefits of the ACTC

All of my students, both past and present, tell me that the Apple’s Technical Coordinator certification provides the fundamental knowledge and therefore confidence to start configuring and supporting Mac devices in their environments.

If this journey to Apple certification and knowledge of Apple’s new Mavericks OS is something you’d be interested in, please feel free to contact one of our helpful and friendly training team or take a look at our collection of Mavericks Training courses on our website.

Revise IT – Updated for OS X Mavericks 10.9 certifications!

We’re pleased to announce that our app, Revise IT, has now been updated to Mavericks 10.9 Certifications and is available to download from the App Store today, for free!

This latest version, has been updated for iOS 7 and is packed full of new test questions and extra features (some of which were requested by users from previous versions) such as the ability to share your results with your friends and colleagues on Twitter and Facebook.

New to this Update:

  • OS X Support Essentials 10.9
  • OS X Server Essentials 10.9
  • Mac Integration Basics 10.9
  • Rewritten for iOS 7 (new interface and logo!)
  • Share results with friends and colleagues on Twitter and Facebook

Within the app there are two modes, Study and Test Mode.

Study Mode:

You can choose questions from any of the chapters from Support and Server Essentials and Mac Integration Basics. Choose from doing just one chapter or all the chapters to test your knowledge on your chosen subject.

Tap summary to review the questions you have answered and “end test” to view your score! In this mode you can go back and test yourself again and again, to ensure you get every question right before entering Test mode!

revise for osx server essentials

Test Mode:

In this mode, you will be presented with 76 questions taken from all the chapters of your chosen OS X subject, e.g. Support Essentials 10.9, which you must complete within an hour.

results revise it

 

History

You are also able to keep a record of their previous test results and the app tracks your history, allowing you to view your very own progress chart!

history revise it

Social Media:

Share your results with your friends and your colleagues, on Twitter or Facebook.

revise it share online

 

User Reviews:

“Good to recap and jog memory instead of flipping through the 900 page monster book. And it’s completely free. Utterly brilliant”

“What a great app. Very Nice interface and easy to use. Got me through both support and server exams. Thanks Amsys!”

Download for free from the App Store today!

Microsoft Office 365′s mail flow trace tool

Microsoft’s, Office 365 might be great, but just like every new born baby, it needs further development and improvement.

For example, currently it is possible that an e-mail does not get delivered, and a bounce back e-mail is not generated.

Microsoft are developing a mail flow trace tool but it is not fully deployed just yet, and it currently allows us to only trace e-mails for the last 7 days. When the feature is available to the public, it will allow you to trace messages sent up to the previous 90 days.

This will be a great e-mail troubleshooting tool that will allow you to specify data range, with specific times, sender and recipient e-mail addresses and some other adjustments to your searches.

Here is what the official text on the web page says, “Requests for messages older than 7 days are provided as downloads. Messages older than 90 days are unavailable.” However, Microsoft has advised to not rely on it too much, just yet.

The tool can be accessed by:

  1. Login to your webmail in Office 365 as an administrator.
  2. Click on Outlook.
  3. Edit the URL in your browser from https://outlook.office365.com/owa/?realm=example.com#path=/mail to https://outlook.office365.com/ecp/  and press return on your keyboard.
  4. On the left side of the web page, there is a mail flow option, so click on that.
  5. The message trace tab can be accessed when the mail flow page loads as well as a few other useful tools.

messge trace office 365

When the trace request is submitted, there will be a View pending or completed traces link available on the same page that will allows you to view the status of your traces.

completed trace office 365

It looks really good and it is easy to read.

Learn how to Deploy OS X Mavericks & more!

mavericks-trainingOver the last two years, we have been teaching our popular advanced Apple IT courses to a range of IT professionals who need to fill the gap that the ACSA certification left.

These advanced courses teach Apple Techs, such as System Administrators, advanced theory about OS X Security, Deployments and Integration.

This week, we launched the updated version of our Advanced Deployment course for Mavericks 10.9. This course has been packed full of extra features and hands on labs as a well as a module on 3rd Party deployment solutions, Munki and Casper!

This 3 day intense course is perfect for IT professionals who require an in-depth knowledge on deploying OS X Systems and software.

What you will learn:

  • Deployment Planning: Learn how to develop your deployment strategy.
  • Deploying Individual Items and Containers: We will look at how to use Apple’s Remote Desktop software and OS X Server.
  • Installation Packages: Learn how to create custom installations packages. We will also look at Munki and Casper.
  • Creating Entire System Images: Learn how to create full system images, understand the differences between cloned and modular systems, and customise system images.
  • Deploying System Images: We’ll teach you how to install and configure Apple’s Netinstall service for deployment.
  • Post Imaging Deployment Considerations and System Maintenance: Learn how to use the various techniques used to apply post installation configuration and how to keep your OS X clients updated via Apple Software Update server or Mavericks’ Caching service.
  • Deploying Macs with DeployStudio: We’ll show you how to configure pre and post imaging scripts to perform tasks such as, naming computers and binding active directory.

 

Learn about all the topics above and much more on our 3 day course, in Central London, South London or Manchester, on the OS X Deployment 10.9 course!

A farewell to Server 10.8 & a big hello to OS X Server Essentials 10.9 courses!

mountain lion training over

Last week I finished teaching my last 10.8 Apple Certified course, OS X Server Essentials 201, which concluded with a 100% pass rate – a very nice way to complete the series on!

I am now looking forward to the challenge of teaching our new 10.9 Maverick courses, in fact I am just about to go and prepare my classroom for my first set of 10.8 – 10.9 upgrade courses of the year!

I will also be teaching OS X Server Essentials 10.9, our first course is on 3rd of February at our Apple Training Centre in Soho. The course agenda for OS X Server Essentials 10.9 is is similar to that of 10.8 with the addition of some great, interesting new content to learn! The day course plan is, as follows:

Day One

  • Intro to the Course

Configuring & Monitoring OS X Server

  • Installing OS X Server
  • Providing DNS
  • Exploring the Server App
  • Configuring SSL Certificates
  • Using Status and Notifications
  • Backing Up OS X Server
  • Managing Local Users

Day Two

Configuring Accounts

  • Configuring Open Directory Services
  • Managing Local Network Accounts

Managing Devices with Configuration Profiles

  • Configuring OS X Server to Provide Device Management
  • Managing with Profile Manager

Providing File Services

  • Providing File Sharing Services
  • Understanding File Access

Implementing Deployment Solutions

  • Leveraging NetInstall
  • Caching Content from Apple
  • Implementing Software Update Service

Day Three

Providing Network Services

  • Offering Time Machine Network Backup
  • Providing Security via the VPN Service
  • Understanding DHCP
  • Hosting Websites

Using Collaborative Services

  • Providing Mail Service
  • Configuring the Wiki Service
  • Implementing Calendar Service
  • Providing Messages Service
  • Managing Contacts Service

To learn how to configure, use and manage OS X Sever, come on our OS X Server Essentials 10.9 course!

How to fix a Black Screen view in Remote Desktop Client

Occasionally when I remotely control a client computer using Apple Remote Desktop it will visually display the remote user’s desktop as a blacked-out screen.
black-screen-view-remote
When I experience this and I move the mouse pointer around the blacked-out screen, the remote user looking at  physical screen will confirm the mouse movement. For obvious reasons,  this is not helpful when assisting the user with remote support.

One possible workaround that has worked on some occasions (but not always) is to restart the Apple Remote Desktop Client service.

There are two ways to restart the Apple Remote Desktop Client service, by means of the graphical interface, or the command line.

To restart the Apple Remote Desktop Client service using the graphical interface, simply ask the remote user to go to:

 > System Preferences > Sharing and Stop/Start the service called Remote Management.

However, it should be noted that the remote user on the remote computer will  need to be an Administrator, or they will need to know an Administrator’s  username and password in order to Stop/Start the Remote Management  service.

If the remote user is a non-admin, and you are unable to provide them with Administrator details due to policy, then you may be able to remotely restart the Apple Remote Desktop Client service using SSH if already enabled.

To check if SSH is enabled, ask the remote user to navigate to:

 > System Preferences > Sharing and confirm if the Remote Login service is enabled or ticked.

If Remote Login (SSH) is enabled, then follow the commands below to  remotely login into the computer using SSH which will then allow to you  remotely restart the Apple Remote Desktop Client.

Note: In general, you will only be able to SSH to a remote computer if you  are local to it (as in on the same network) or you have a VPN connection  to that network. It is unlikely that you would be able to SSH to the  remote computer from the public-side (WAN) of the network due to  security implications.

1. Open the application Terminal (Applications > Utilities).
2. Connect to the client computer using SSH by typing ssh  <admin-username>@<client-computer-ip-address> (e.g.  administrator@192.168.1.55) and, when prompted, authenticate using the  password relevant to that admin user account defined before the @  symbol.
3. When you have successfully SSH’d to the remote computer,  enter the following command below to restart the Apple Remote Desktop  client software.

sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement/ARDAgent.app/Contents/Resources/kickstart -restart –agent

4. To disconnect your SSH remote session to the remote computer simply type exit follow by the return key.

If  the above does not work for you, then you could try remotely updating  the Apple Remote Desktop Client software using your Apple Remote Desktop  Admin software (in ARD Admin software select remote computer, click the  menu Manage > Upgrade Client Software).

Alternatively,  rebooting the computer should also resolve the issue but may not be  practical if the remote computer is a server.

How to instantly lock your OS X screen in Mavericks 10.9

Back in June 2012, I blogged about ‘How to Instantly Lock your Mac OS X Screen in Lion’.

This is an updated version of that blog for Mavericks as I wanted to add a couple of new comments and an even quicker way in Mavericks to achieve a locked screen.

The easiest and quickest way to lock an OS X screen is to put the display to sleep, ensuring you have configured your Mac to ask for a password after sleep or screen saver.

If you do not have the password required feature enabled, then follow these simple steps to set this up on any Mac:

Step 1: Launch System Preferences.
Step 2: Open the “Security & Privacy” preference pane and select the “General” tab.
Step 3: Click the checkbox next to ‘Require password after sleep or screen saver begins’ – you can select either immediately or a preferred time interval.
Step 4: Close System Preferences and you’re done!

lock os x screen mavericks

Once you have the password feature setup, you are ready to toggle display sleep.

To do this you can perform EITHER of the following:

  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Control+Shift+Eject keys together (if your Mac has an internal Optical Drive and an Eject key).
  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Control+Shift+Power keys together (if your Mac does NOT have an internal Optical Drive or an Eject key).

In both cases, you’ll see your Mac’s display shut off immediately, while the system continues to run in the background. This is not sleep mode so your Mac will still function, you have just put the display to sleep.

Press any button to wake the display up and you should be asked to authenticate with your user’s password to unlock the screen:

os x sleep

There are other methods of locking your Mac, for example you can enable a Keychain Access menu in your menu bar or configure a screen saver Hot Corner. However, for me, I think these methods take longer to setup and use.

You could also just put your entire Mac into sleep mode, which will also toggle the required user password on wake-up. However, your Mac is now in sleep mode and background services may not run unless you have the latest portable Mac, which has the Power Nap feature.

To do this you can perform ANY of the following:

  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Command+Option/Alt+Eject keys together (if your Mac has an internal Optical Drive and an Eject key).
  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Command+Option/Alt+Power keys together (if your Mac does NOT have an internal Optical Drive or an Eject key).
  • In Mavericks, simply press the Power key.

(This last option triggered by updating to Mavericks, means that you can no longer simply press the power button to bring up the ‘Restart, Sleep, Cancel, Shut Down’ pop up. In Mavericks, hold down the Control key whilst pressing the power button to bring up this menu to quickly choose one of these options).

To disable the power button sleep in 10.9, read Russell’s latest blog here.

Locking your Mac’s screen, whichever way you wish to do it, is a great option to enable in environments where you may have sensitive data on your Mac that you want to ensure is not accessible when you leave your Mac powered on.
Or, like me, you have a mischievous colleague who you cannot trust with your Mac if you walk away and leave yourself logged in! :)

To learn how to support and troubleshoot OS X Mavericks, come on our OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course!

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.1 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

How to customise and order your Mailboxes in iOS 7 Mail

I have been using Mail on my iPhone since iOS 1, however I didn’t become a fan of the app until Apple released iOS 7. Now it looks good, and allows for the customisation of my mailboxes.

Once I had setup all my accounts and started Mail for the first time, it looked quite confusing due to all the different mailboxes and accounts that were listed.

ios 7 mail customisation

However, all of this can be taken care of with the use of one button in the top right corner called “Edit”.

I love the fact that I can get rid of all my mailboxes and just leave “All Inboxes” visible. This way, I can access the e-mails from all my mailboxes in one place. My favourites are Unread, VIP and Flagged, as they allow me to see my unread messages, letters from VIP senders, and all my Flagged messages from different mailboxes.

Step 1: Tap “edit”

edit ios mail

Step 2: Now, all all the hidden smart mailboxes will be revealed, which you can change the position and order of

drop down reveal
Step 3:
Tap and hold the “hamburger” icon on the left, so that you can change the list order of a folder

hamburger icon

Step 4: Tap the grey circle on the left, to activate a folder as a main mailbox option

blue-tick
Step 4: To active these folders, tap done

Another great feature that will please those who like their e-mails carefully arranged into folders (which is how I like it), is the ability to add a folder to the main screen of Mail as a mailbox.

Step 1: Tap the “Edit” button

edit ios mail
Step 2: Tap “Add Mailbox…”

add mailbox ios7
Step 3: Tap on your chosen account

choose mail account ios 7
Step 4: Tap the folder that you want quick access to

choose folder

allocated
Step 5: Tap “Done” on the top right corner of the screen

tap done

And the final result, is a well organised and functional mail app, customised according to your needs, that will save you time rather than trying to navigate through a messy digital life.

ordered ios mailbox

 

Want to learn more? Take our course on how  to support and troubleshoot iOS devices.

A starter guide to using Iceberg to package Google Chrome

Hi Everyone. With the bulk of my Munki starter guides now out, I’m taking a short break and concentrating on other blogs. Don’t worry, Munki will return this year!

In line with this, today’s blog is a simple starter guide to using Iceberg to package Google Chrome with a post-flight script.

Iceberg is one of our most used ‘packaging’ tools and is available free from WhiteBox. To copy the explanation from their website:

“ Iceberg is an Integrated Packaging Environment (IPE) that allows you to create packages or metapackages conforming to the Mac OS X specifications. 

 With Iceberg, you can quickly create your installation packages using a graphic user interface similar to your favorite development tools. 

 Iceberg can also be useful for Administrators who want to gather in a metapackage numerous packages for remote distribution via Apple Remote Desktop.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with it.

The Guide

1. Launch the Iceberg application. The default storage location is the Applications folder (/Applications). Also as default the application will not open any windows. Select “File” in the Menu bar, then “New Project”.
2. Under the “Core Templates” section, select “Package” and click “Next”.

1.	Launch the Iceberg application

3. On the next page you are asked to give the project a name and where to save the project’s working directory. The name should reflect what software it will install and (if known) the version number of the final project. For example: “Chrome_v22.0.1229.94”. The directory can be set to anywhere in the OS, as long as the current user has read/write/execute access. The default location is “~/” which is the root of the current user’s home. This is typically fine. Once set, click “Finish”.

new package iceberg

4. Iceberg will now open its main project window. Select the name of your project on the left hand side to show the full content in the right hand window.

iceberg chrome package

5. Settings > Description. The settings here should / can be set as follows:

  • Title: The name of the Package. This can be changed or set to anything, but it would be best to stick to the same constraints as the project name to avoid confusion.
  • Version: This can be left as default (“1.0”) and has no real bearing on the installer.
  • Description: This again is not shown during the installation and therefore should be left blank.
  • Delete warning: Same as description, this should just be left blank.

settings description iceberg

6. Settings > Display Information. The settings here should / can be set as follows:

  • Display Name: This is the name that is shown in the top window bar.
  • Identifier: This is an individual identifier for the package. This should be formatted as reverse DNS. For example: “co.uk.amsys.Chrome_v22.0.1229.94”
  • Get-Info String: This is the information that is shown in the “Get-Info” window in the Finder. This is typically in the format “[package name] [version] Copyrights © [Current Year] [Company name]”
  • Short Version: This is the version that is shown in the “Get-Info” window in the Finder. This should match the version number set above.
  • Icon File: This can be used to set a custom icon on the package. If left blank it will use the default installer package icon.

iceberg icon file

7. Settings > Version. This is where you can set the major and minor version numbers of the installer package. These are safe to be left at default.

version number

8. Settings > Options. The settings here should / can be set as follows:

  • Restart: Unless the application install specifically requires it, leave this as the default “No Restart Required”. If the installer does require a restart, then it cannot be used with the Deployment Application.
  • Authorization: This should always be set to “Root Authorization” to prevent installation failures.

Please Note: Always test new installation packages before carrying out live installations. There is a danger that they would replace existing directories instead of adding to them.

  • Flags: These are additional options that can be enabled on the package. Due to the type of packages that would be created with Iceberg, it is recommended that these be left as defaults (no boxes ticked).

setting options

9. Documents > Background Image. The settings here should / can be set as follows:

  • Default: This will use the default Installer background. This is typically more then sufficient for these custom installers. This is the option we’d recommend.
  • Path: This is where you can specify the background image to be used with the installation package.
  • Scaling: If ‘Path’ is used, this can also be used to scale the background image as required.
  • Alignment: If ‘Path’ is used, this can also be used to position the background image relative to the installation window.

documents background image

 

10. Documents > Welcome / > ReadMe / > License. These path boxes are used to package in a Welcome message on the first installer window, a ReadMe page and a License Agreement page. With this use of Iceberg, we would recommend leaving these as default (blank) but it might be something worth trying if it is features that is required.

readme licenses

11. Scripts > Requirements. In this area you can configure additional restrictions on the package it self (such as OS version). These are considered advanced options and we would not recommend their use in packaging applications for internal use.

scripts requirements

12. Scripts > Installation Scripts. In this area you can add a number of scripts to run in different sections. If you wish to have an installer that just runs a shell script and doesn’t install anything, we would recommend adding it here under the “postflight” option, and ensuring to tick the box.

Please note: In the example below, the script line is red. This is because the file entered doesn’t exist on the machine I am building the project on. The best way to add scripts to the package is by drag and drop.

installation scripts

13. Scripts > Additional Resources. This area is for adding additional items into the package that are not installed. This is for advanced configuration only and it is not recommended to change this without thorough testing.

additional resources

14. Plugins. This area is provided for you to add additional Plugins into the installer at the listed points. This is for advanced configuration only and it is not recommended to change this without thorough testing.

plugins

15. Files > Default Destination. This area allows you to change the default installation location. It is highly recommended to leave this at the default setting.

default destinations

16. Files > Archiving Options. This allows advanced modification of the payload for the installer. It is highly recommended to leave this at the default settings

archiving options

17. Files > [File System Box]. This box is where you can add the applications for installation. Simply drag the require files from their location, into their containing folder in the provided system. If the parent directory is not present, you can drag this instead. This area also allows you to modify the permissions that will be set when the files are installed.

file system

18. Once complete, and you are happy that the settings are correct, click “Build” in the menu bar, followed by “Build” again (the keyboard shortcut for this is “cmd” and “B”). This will now build the installation package. Depending on the size of the payload, this can take from a few seconds, up to 30 minutes.

19. Iceberg will open and display its log window during the build process. Once all of the icons have turned green (grey means ‘in progress’) the package is complete and ready for collection. This is stored in the directory you specific at the start of the project, within the “build” folder. This .pkg file is your completed package.

log window

20. This package can be installed by either double clicking, or with the use of the Deployment Application.

Please Note: It is heavily recommended to take the new installation package and run at least 2 test installations on different Macs to ensure it will behave as expected.

Summary

There you have it, a guide to getting you started in Iceberg, hopefully giving you a solid start to expand on.

Any interesting or helpful tools you use? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll try to respond to as many as I can.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.1 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

Mavericks Tip: Troubleshooting Bluetooth devices & their connection strength

Back in February last year, I blogged about ‘Troubleshooting Bluetooth devices and their connection strength in Mountain Lion‘.

This is an updated version of that blog for Mavericks as TJ Luoma kindly commented on my blog to inform me that these features have changed in Mavericks (OS X 10.9), prompting me to update my blog. Thanks TJ!

So, to monitor and troubleshoot Bluetooth connections in Mavericks, here’s how!

Mavericks has simplified Bluetooth Preferences along with other GUI settings that Apple prefer end users not to play with.

The good news is that as long as you know where to look, you can still access most of these options.

To monitor a Bluetooth connection, a Bluetooth device must be enabled and currently connected to your Mac.

Then follow the below steps to monitor the signal strength of that connection:

Step 1) If you hold down the Option/Alt key and then click on the Bluetooth Icon in the Apple Menu Bar, you can select the device you wish to monitor:

bluetooth devices mavericks

Step 2) You should then have an entry for the, RSSI signal  strength (Received signal strength indicator) of that device, along with the Bluetooth MAC address of that device’s Bluetooth card:

rssi signal strength

There is no Monitor Connection window showing a graph of the bluetooth signal that was available in Mountain Lion, but at least you can still monitor the RSSI.

There are third-party utilities you can use to monitor all wireless communication including Bluetooth. For example iStumbler:

istumbler

Without going into too much techie talk on how RSSI works, basically the higher the number, the better the connection.

Notice that the numbers are negative, therefore the nearer the number is to 0, the better the connection.

-51 is better than -55 for example.

Below is a basic outline of the ranges that represent a good to bad connection:

  •     -110 and lower = Very poor connection and likely to be unusable
  •     -100 to -109 =  Poor connection
  •     -70 to -99 = Good connection
  •     -40 to -55 = Very strong connection

You can also select ‘Create Diagnostics Report on the Desktop’ from the Bluetooth menu bar after holding down the Option/Alt key to generate a list of log files on your Bluetooth performance:

create Diagnostics Report

To finish, I’d like to give you a couple of suggestions on how to improve your wireless connection, if the RSSI reading is poor.

Check the obvious first.

Low batteries are the most likely reason for a poor Bluetooth signal.
You can use the Bluetooth menu bar to check your current battery percentage before trying a new set of batteries:

improve wireless connection

Also, move location in case of any major interference from other radio frequencies in the immediate area.
It’s not easy to isolate an environment factor with regards to wireless networks, but move your computer to different locations and see if the RSSI reading improves.

I hope that this blog has helped those like me that use Bluetooth devices to improve their wireless connections.

To learn how to support and troubleshoot OS X Mavericks, come on our OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course!

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.1 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

Mac Support for PC Techs 10.9 Training at Lancaster Uni!

Firstly a Happy New Year to all. With a New Year comes new adventures for all at Amsys Training, and mine arrived in the first working week! I was given the opportunity to travel to Lancaster University to teach not just any onsite course, but Amsys’ first OS X Mavericks Course!

I was sent to teach our Mac Support for PC Technicians course not once but twice – back to back. The University had also decided that they would offer the exam for each of the delegates. Upon passing the Mac Integration Basics 10.9 Exam, therefore, each delegate would then have the Apple Certified Associate Certification upon passing the exam!

On the Monday, I arrived and set up my room. It was an ideal training room, as the set up was perfect for an enjoyable learning environment.

mac support for pc tech onsite course

Tuesday brought the start of the first ever Amsys 10.9 Course. I met my first set of 9 delegates, and we started making our way through the material. Although the course was designed for OS X Mavericks, it seemed appropriate for the University’s staff to have an overview of other versions of OS X, and the differences that they would come across as they were supporting a wide variety of versions.

Both days run smoothly, and at the end they were ready to take the exam. Some were more relaxed about it than others but after the 2 hour period allotted for the exam everyone had passed.

The second course ran in much the same way, however, unfortunately for the second group, they had the added pressure due to the success of the first group. Even with this pressure they rose to the occasion and again all 9 passed.

It was a great experience and was good to be able to get the first 10.9 course out of the way, ahead of hopefully many more as successful as this one. Thank you to all at Lancaster University who made it possible and enjoyable.

If you would like to find out more about our Mac Support for PC Technician course or our onsite training services, please contact us by calling, 0208 645 5806 or emailing training@amsys.co.uk.

 

A few things to consider when implementing IT security measures

After working with a range of business types and sizes I have noticed a common concern amongst the people I speak to regarding security, or specifically, information security.  They are worried about leaking confidential business information but also the risk of leaking personal information which is governed by the Data Protection Act.

In this blog post I will highlight a few steps you can take with Apple and online technologies to reduce the risk to your business.

The level of security you implement is of course a sliding scale depending on the size of the business and we would generally recommend only taking action when the cost to implement a security measure is less than the risk you’re trying to protect against.

It is also worth noting that by increasing security you are often reducing usability.  It is important to get this balance right so you and your staff can still do your work and not be overly hampered by excessive security measures.

So a few questions to ask yourself are:

  • If your email account was compromised, what damage could this cause?
  • If you lost your MacBook / iPhone / iPad, how easy would it be for the new custodian to gain access to you data?
  • If the user account details for one of your staff members were compromised, what impact could this have?
  • If you have security policies in place, how can you tell if the users are actually following them?

Things to consider

When you are considering implementing security measures there are a few key themes to take into account:

  • Attack surface area - Essentially, where is your data?  The more endpoints that have business data stored on them, the greater the risk is that information will be compromised.  Also consider cloud services.  The more cloud services you use, the greater the risk, not to mention the vulnerability of the data in transit from your device / office to the cloud providers servers which will be travelling around the Internet, albeit in an encrypted form (I hope!)
  • Vulnerabilities - Taking the attack surface area into account, how vulnerable are each of these points of access?  Is the data encrypted?  Do you need to enter a password to gain access?
  • Passwords - Considering that user passwords are generally the “keys to the castle”, this is a big topic on its own.  I would consider what passwords people are using?  Do you have policies in place to electronically enforce the use of stronger passwords?  Do the users use the same password for other services (or possible personal services such as Facebook)? Are you sure that each of these services are secure?  Are you sure that where the same password is being used, none of these have been compromised?

What you can do

Minimise the attack surface area

This is more of a working practices topic but you generally need to avoid putting the data anywhere that it doesn’t need to be, or leaving data where it is no longer needed.  If the data does need to be stored in a particular location (such as on your MacBook), make sure you review and remove the data once it is no longer needed in that location.

If you use a central file server, get in the habit of working on the data, moving it to the server and then removing your local copy.  When it comes to cloud services, make sure you use trusted providers and if you are putting your data on their servers, make sure they are using SSL and you have strong passwords in place.

Vulnerabilities

For Apple devices there are a few key alterations you can make (or may have already made) that will really help to reduce these vulnerabilities:

  • Turn on disk encryption - This is to make sure that if someone takes the hard drive out of your Mac or puts it into target disk mode, they wouldn’t easily be able to access the data.  The feature is built-in to Mac OS X and unlike the early incarnations of FileVault, since 10.7 it uses full disk encryption and is very reliable.  Turn this on in the security system preference pane or if you have a device management solution in place you can enforce the setting centrally.
  • Require a password to login and to wake from sleep or screensaver - This is to protect the information on the computer if some gets hold of it.  You want to make sure that if the computer boots up, or wakes from sleep, that a password is required to gain access.  In the newest versions of Mac OS X this is normally enabled by default but it is worth double checking that auto-login isn’t switched on (check the users and groups system preference pane) and that “require password to wake from sleep or screensaver” is enabled in the security system preference pane.
  • Install anti-virus software - I would normally recommend the products from McAfee or Sophos as an added layer of protection (if you do use Sophos, make sure it’s not the free / personal edition as this isn’t authorised for business / commercial use).
  • Switch on the firewall - Again this is built-in, accessible via the security system preference pane and adds another layer of protection to your computer.
  • Turn off network services - In the sharing system preference pane there are a load of services you can enable, such as file sharing and internet sharing.  If you do need one of these, switch it on, do what you need to do, then switch it back off.  Try to avoid leaving unused services switched on as each one is an additional vulnerability for the machine
  • Turn on complex pass codes - For iOS devices, make sure you use a complex pass code.  Simple (4-digit) pass codes are weak.  I have lost count of the number of pass codes I have accidentally seen someone type into their iPhones just by glancing at the wrong time.  Not only are the numbers in a predictable pattern, you can easily see what code someone has typed in, even if you can’t read the digits.

A note about “Find my Mac” & remote wipe - Generally speaking, although interesting, I haven’t found this feature to be overly useful.  It requires the device to be switched on and connected to the Internet.  iOS devices with 3/4G aren’t as bad but for Macs this is unlikely to help.  Personally, I prefer preventative methods.

If your Mac is lost or stolen, you want to be in the position to just dismiss it as a shame and buy another one, safe in the knowledge that there isn’t much data on it, it is encrypted and requires a password to access it, rather than panicking about all the data that has just been compromised.  Remote wipe is a handy feature if it works, again for iOS that is more likely but for Mac OS X I wouldn’t count on it.

Passwords

As I mentioned before, passwords and authentication is a huge topic but here are a few general suggestions:

  • Use a complex password / pass code - The most common cracking methods are a dictionary attack (the cracking program works through every word in the dictionary hoping to get lucky) and a brute force attack.  A dictionary attack only takes a few seconds so if your password is “Apple” or “Password” you will be the first to go down.  A brute force attack will, given enough time, crack the code, but you can make this a great deal harder by using a mix of upper and lower case, special character and numbers.
  • Avoid known “clever” passwords - Such as “LetMeIn1” or “P4ssw0rd” etc.  Most cracking tools will try these first!
  • Avoid passwords that can be worked out from your personal information - Such as spouse name, DOBs, pet names, children names, business road name etc etc.
  • Use at least 8 characters - The more characters the better but less than 8 is significantly easier for a brute force attack to crack.
  • Use a password generator - Either the password assistant built-in to Mac OS X or a third party tool like LastPass or 1Password can generate a random password for you.
  • Only use one password per service - Single sign-on and centralised authentication is great, but what if that one account is compromised?  If your password is compromised, you want to make sure the potential damage is minimised.  You can do this by using different passwords for each service.  If you are thinking that you can’t remember all of these passwords, a tool like LastPass or 1Password will help make it easier to manage this.
  • Use two-factor authentication where possible - A lot of cloud services have two-factor authentication available, including Google Apps, Dropbox & Evernote.  Switch it on and the attacker will need your mobile phone as well as your username and password to gain access to the account.
  • Change your passwords regularly - Think of the lifetime of a password as another attack surface.  The longer it is in use for, the greater opportunity the attacker has to crack it.  I would recommend trying not to increment the number by 1 each time (such as password1, password2, password3 etc).

If you would like to learn more about OS X Security, you can take our 1 day course, alternatively our Mac consultants will be able to advise you on best practice: Email: support@amsys or Call: 0208 660 9999

How to switch off notifications when mirroring your screen in 10.9

Under the Notification preferences in Mavericks, you can now switch off your notifications while you are mirroring your screen. This has proved to be really useful while we are doing demos during training!

turn off notifications in osx

You can also turn on “Do Not Disturb” without going into System Preferences. You can do this by simply opening Notification Centre, on your desktop, and then scrolling down to the “Do Not Disturb” option.

notification centre maverics

Munki Configuration Part 5: The client Mac

Welcome to part 5 of the Munki blog series. In this post, I will show you how I install and configure the client Mac / s for Munki.

Some notes for this series as a whole:

  • These instructions have been written for our internal teams and for our typical installations. Tweaks may be required to fit your exact setup.
  • The server used in these examples is Mac OS X Server 10.8.4
  • The server uses Mac Server App version 2.2.1.
  • The server has been configured with a boot drive called “ServerHD” and a data drive called “DataHD” for the services data.
  • The clients used in these examples are Mac OS X 10.8.4, although the instructions have been tested on Mac OS X 10.8.2+.
  • Munki is provided free of charge under the Open Source license. Although free, your mileage may vary, so test any solutions heavily before rolling them out as ‘live’.

Additional information can be found on the Munki site.

Guide

You have your Mac Server installed and configured with 10.8.4 and Server app 2.2.1. This has both forward and reverse lookups configured and working fine. I will also assume that you have already followed all the steps in part 1 and part 2. Part 3 and / or part 4 must also have been completed.

Downloading and Installing the Munki Client Tools

1. The installer for the client Macs is actually the same as for the Admin Mac. Navigate to code.google.com/p/munki and click the “Downloads” link.

Downloading and Installing the Munki Client Tools

2. Select the “munkitools-[version number].dmg” link. In the example this is “munkitools-0.9.0.1803.0.dmg”. On the next screen click the link next to “File” to start the download.

 

download installer package munki

3. Once this has downloaded, quit your web browser and navigate to your default downloads folder. Mount the freshly downloaded disk image.

4. What you will find is that Gate Keeper will prevent a double click to launch the installer. Instead, either disable Gate Keeper for this installation (“System Preferences” > “Security & Privacy” > “Allow applications downloaded from:” > “Anywhere”) or right click, select “Open” and “Open” again.

allow disable gatekeeper munki

open gatekeeper

5. Continue through the installer until you get to the “Customize” option. Select this.

Continue through the installer until you get to the “Customize” option. Select this.

6. By default, all options are enabled. The options are detailed as follows:

a. Munki core tools – The core tools for Munki to work. This is required for the client Macs and the admin Mac / s.
b. Munki admin tools – The admin Mac / s related tools. This is not required for the client Macs but is required for the admin Mac / s.
c. Managed Software Update – This is the GUI tool the client Macs will use to install the updates from Munki. This is only required on the client Macs and not the admin Mac / s unless they will also be clients.
d. Munki launchd agents – These are the tools used to trigger update checks by the client Macs. This is only required on the client Macs and not the admin Mac / s unless they will also be clients. This option will require a restart as part of the installation.

7. Deselect the second from the top option (detailed under B above) and continue the entire installation.

munki managed software installation

8. You will be asked to confirm that the installer needs a restart. Click “Continue Installation”. Once the install is complete, click “Restart”.

munki continue installation

9. Once rebooted, log back into the Mac. You have now completed the installation of the Munki client tools onto your client Mac.

Configuring the Munki client

10. The client-side configuration of Munki is based around a standard, XML-formatted plist file called “ManagedInstalls” and located in “/Library/Preferences/”. Being a standard plist file, I will talk you through setting some of the common options using the ‘defaults write’ command.

If you are using a Monolythic deployment system, you can carry this all out in the master image, then deploy post-configuration. Alternatively, as you are producing a standardised plist file, simply use MCXs or Profile Manager’s Profiles to push the entire plist out where required.

Please Note: There are a number of supported ManagedInstalls.plist keys, most of which are not covered here. For details and information, please visit the Munki wiki page here.

11. As all of these commands are going into a system level preference, we will need to run these as root. As a result each will be prefaced with ‘sudo’. The plist file doesn’t currently exist, but one of the good things with defaults write is that it will create the file if required.

12. This first command points the client to your Munki server and the munki_repo. The format is “http://[server address]/[munki_repo name]” (e.g. “http://munki.amsys.co.uk/munki_repo”). The server address can be IP or DNS but needs to be reachable and resolvable by your client Macs. Type in the following command, edited for your specific site (Note: This IS all on one line, despite how it might appear):

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls SoftwareRepoURL “http://munki.amsys.co.uk/munki_repo”

tell the client Mac which manifest it should check

13. The next step will tell the client Mac which manifest it should check on your Munki Server. In my previous blogs we have used “basic_manifest” as our primary manifest. Type in the following command, edited for your specific site and needs:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls ClientIdentifier “basic_manifest”

munki managed installs

14. With these two settings changed, the Munki solution should work fine. The next few entries are optional (but ones I have used in the past) with their usage explained.

15. Install Apple Updates – Munki has the ability to offer Apple Software Updates within its “Managed Updates” Application, even to non-administrative users. Potentially combining this with a local and managed SUS you can allow users to keep their own Macs up-to-date. Type in the following command:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls InstallAppleSoftwareUpdates True

Install Apple Updates

16. Days Between Notifications – By default, Munki will notify a logged in user once a day, if it detects that there are updates available. You can increase this number by using the below command, replacing “1” with the desired number of days.

Please Note: Do not use this option to suppress user notification. It won’t always work and there is another option for that as detailed below.

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls DaysBetweenNotifications –int 1

Days Between Notifications

17. Suppress User Notification – By default, if a user is logged into the Mac and Munki detects and update, it will display the Managed Software Update application. If this is not what you want (for example in an education environment), use the below command:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls SuppressUserNotifications True

Suppress User Notification

18. Suppress Auto Install – By default, Munki will automatically install updates it finds if at the login window. To disable this behaviour, run the below command:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls SuppressAutoInstall True

supress user notifications munki

19. Install Requires Logout – By default, Munki will always recommend a logout unless and installation requires it. If you want (to ensure there are no open apps) to enforce it for all Munki installs, use the following command:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls InstallRequiresLogout True

install requires logout munki

20. And that’s your Munki client configured.

Using Managed Software Update

21. As part of the installer we ran during steps 5 to 8, an additional application is installed in your Utilities folder called “Managed software Update”. This application is used by the client Mac to interact with the Munki solution using a GUI tool.
Using Managed Software Update

 

22. Double click the application to launch. It will start to test its connection to the Munki Repo before checking what items it needs to install.
Double click the application to launch

23. If there are installers it needs to run, Managed Software Update will download these now and cache them in /Library/Managed Installs/Cache.

check for available updates

24. If you have enabled the option to check Apple Updates (step 15) this check will now be carried out, otherwise this will be skipped.

check for apple updates

25. Once complete, you will be presented with a summary of the updates available. If the above checks were carried out by Munki’s LaunchD timers, the first popup would be this box. This is what is suppressed by following step 17 above. Click “Later” to postpone the installs or “Update now” to continue the install.

Munkis LaunchD timers

26. Once complete, you’ll be asked where you’d like to save the package information file. MunkiAdmin should auto populate the name and the location. Confirm that the “pkgsinfo” folder is in your working “munki_repo” folder and click “Save”.

munki admin managed software

27. If you followed step 19 above, you will be asked to logout as per the below screenshot. The remaining steps (29 onwards) will happen over the login window.

managed updates logout required

28. If you didn’t follow step 19 above, you will be asked to logout (recommended) or to continue, as per the below.

logout recommended

29. Managed Software Update will now run all of the installers it has cached.

installing java updates

30. Once complete, the Managed Software Update will quit itself. If you re-run the application and there are no further updates, you will get the following message.

your software is up to date

Summary

That’s it; you now have a rough and ready understanding of how to get your clients using Munki and how to use the GUI client application. If you’ve been following the series you should now be able to get a basic Munki solution up and running! I hope you’ve found this series helpful and informative. Keep an eye out (or subscribe to us) for further Munki related blogs, amongst other things that take my fancy.

Any hints, tips or opinions? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll try to respond to as many as I can.

 

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

Christmas “Crazy Message Text”

Christmas is almost here. Here is a simple tip to brighten up all those “Merry Christmas” emails you are currently sending.

OS X comes with an AppleScript called “Crazy Message Text” which takes some text from the user and makes a new message where each letter has a different font, size and colour.

To run the script go to this directory:   HD > Library > Scripts > Mail Scripts

In here you will find the ”Crazy Message Text” AppleScript. To run it,  just double click it,  which will open it inside the AppleScript Editor. Once opened, click the “Run” button in the top tool bar.

It will prompt you for a message. Enter your message and click continue

craxy text 1

The script will then create a new email with your text nicely formatted for Christmas.

 

cray text 2

 

We wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!

 

Time Machine changes in Mavericks

Following on from my previous post on cheeky changes to OS X Mavericks, (Or 10.9), today I wanted to point out some subtle changes to the way Time Machine backs up.

First of all, the Time Machine menu bar icon no longer rotates whilst performing a back up. This was handy as a visual way of knowing that Time Machine was in the process of backing you up, but in Mavericks, Apple want to hide things even more from the Graphical Interface so users don’t have too many distractions.

If you need to know that a backup is being performed, the menu bar icon does very subtly change to have an extra Arrow in the clock face. The first image below is when NO backup is in progress. The second image is during a backup, can you see the slight icon change?!

time machine changes mavericks

time machine mavericks osx

As you can see, by clicking on the Time Machine menu bar icon it will inform you of the current state of any backups.

You can always at any time open Time Machine preferences and stare at your backup progress should you wish!

osx mavericks time machine preferences

If you back up to a locally mounted drive, the Finder Sidebar icon for your connected drive will still animate rotating the Time Machine clock face.

So, not too much of a hardship to lose the rotating icon, as long as it’s backing me up then I’m happy!

The second thing I have noticed that has changed since upgrading to Mavericks is that as I backup to a Time Capsule drive over the network, the Time Capsule Drive does not ‘Mount’ on the Desktop nor show up in the Finder Sidebar as before during a backup.

So I literally have to rely on the very discrete extra Arrow in the Time Machine menu bar icon or open Time Machine Preferences.

Yes, I have checked that my Finder Preferences has the check-boxes checked as shown below, it seems this is yet another cheeky change in Mavericks to hide things from us!

time machine finder preferences

For you techies out there that are as curious as me!

If you select ‘Go’ in the Finder’s menu bar and select ‘Go to Folder…’, then enter ‘/Volumes/’ in the pop up window that appears, this should display graphically all mounted volumes including your Time Machine backup drive:

time machine mavericks volumes

As you can see, the ‘Data’ volume displayed is my Time Capsule network drive and the ‘Time Machine Backups’ volume displayed contains my backups.
I can navigate into this to see my backups.

As my Mac is an Apple portable, (for me a MacBook Pro), I also have the ‘MobileBackups’ volume which is the special location that Time Machine creates your ‘Local Snapshots’.
(You can obviously use the Terminal instead of the ‘Go to Folder…’ Finder option and navigate your file system if you are more of a command line guy!)

For more information on Time Machine you can read all our Time Machine blogs here or listen to our Time Machine Podcast series online here.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.1, which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

OS X Mavericks Training Dates Announced

mavericks training 10.9 2014

From January 2014, Mavericks Training will be at Amsys Training! If you’re a support technician, help-desk specialist, or just simply love all things Mac, then register today to hear about our confirmed OS X Mavericks training dates, as they get released!

So far we have scheduled dates for:

Places are already filling up for 10.9 training dates on the above courses this January, so don’t miss out on being the first to learn all about what Mavericks has to offer, and how to support your users!

Info for current 10.8 ACSP/ACTC:

We are also now taking bookings for 10.8 upgrades. So if you have your ACSP or ACTC 10.8, get in touch to arrange you upgrades, which we are running from January.

Dates:

Central London

  • 30th – 31st January
  • 24th – 25th February
  • 27th – 28th March.

Manchester

  • 6th-7th March

For more information:

We’re looking forward to training with you soon!

Amsys Training

Amsys’ Services Test iPhone App

I’m pleased to announce our latest iPhone app, Services Test

This is a great tool for IT professionals who deploy iOS devices or associated services.

When using iOS devices there are many standard services that are used such as push notifications, the App Store, activation or enrollment into an MDM solution.

All these services require certain ports and servers to be reachable by the iOS device over the network. However, sometimes a firewall may be blocking certain ports and thus breaking these services.

This app is a quick way to test whether these ports and services are reachable, thus greatly speeding up the troubleshooting process. Especially useful if you are on a network you are not familiar with.

The Services Test app has two modes:

  1. The general mode checks whether key Apple servers are open and reachable. Great for troubleshooting issues with services such as push notifications and activation.
  2. If you are using your own server/MDM solution you can test the reach-ability to that server and key services running. In the list we have added 3 popular MDM solutions with their key services. You can also add your own server to the list.

The app is available to download from the App Store for 69p.

Some Key Screen Shots:

 IT professionals who deploy iOS devices
  app-for-ios-deployment
services-test-app-ios-professionals

Mavericks Tip: How to control when Software Updates are installed

So, it’s been over a month now since Apple released their latest and greatest OS, OS X Mavericks (or 10.9).

I’m still finding little gems here and there as Apple always like to sneak little changes in to surprise us!

Today, I wanted to point out a cheeky option added to Software Updates.

Have you ever had software update run in the background and send you a notification alert to install updates, where you just haven’t the time to install those updates right there and then? However, you know that if you dismiss the notification, you will forget to install them later! The problem with Mountain Lion’s software update was that if you dismissed the notification by swiping it, it would pop up again at a later stage, (usually about every 15 minutes). You had no real control over applying the updates at a later stage.

Now in Mavericks, when you receive a software update notification alert, you can select ‘Later’ and choose from one of three delay options: ‘Try in an Hour’, ‘Try Tonight’, or ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’. So you can now choose WHEN you’d like to install updates. Yes, you now have a choice! :)

control when software updates are installed

This is also available when you launch Software Update or directly click on the ‘Updates’ tab in the Mac App Store App. You will find there is a little drop down triangle you can click on to select your delay option!

launch Software Update or directly

Cool huh?!

For information on Mavericks training courses and dates, click here.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.0 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

Munki Configuration Part 4: MunkiAdmin.app

Good news everyone! That complex method of using the command line to add and manage installers in Munki can be replaced with a nice GUI method!

Welcome to part 4 of the Munki blog series. In this post, I will show you how I install and use the MunkiAdmin application.

Some notes for this series as a whole:

  • These instructions have been written for our internal teams and for our typical installations. Tweaks may be required to fit your exact setup.
  • The server used in these examples is Mac OS X Server 10.8.4
  • The server uses Mac Server App version 2.2.1.
  • The server has been configured with a boot drive called “ServerHD” and a data drive called “DataHD” for the services data.
  • The clients used in these examples are Mac OS X 10.8.4, although the instructions have been tested on Mac OS X 10.8.2+.
  • Munki is provided free of charge under the Open Source license. Although free, your mileage may vary, so test any solutions heavily before rolling them out as ‘live’.

Additional information can be found on the Munki site.

Guide

You have your Mac Server installed and configured with 10.8.4 and Server app 2.2.1. This has both forward and reverse lookups configured and working fine. I will also assume that you have already followed all the steps in part 1 and part 2. Part three is not required but recommended to help your understanding.

Installing and Configuring MunkiAdmin

1. Launch a web browser and navigate to “github.com/hjuutilainen/munkiadmin/releases”
2. Scroll down the page until you can see the download button showing “MunkiAdmin-[version].dmg” (in the screen shot, this is MunkiAdmin-0.2.14.dmg). Click this to download the file.

Installing and Configuring MunkiAdmin

3. Mount your newly downloaded disk image and drag the “MunkiAdmin” application to either the Applications or Utilities folders. Shortcuts to these have been provided within the disk image. Feel free to drag a shortcut to the Dock.

MunkiAdmin apps

4. Once the copy is complete, eject the disk image and quit the web browser. Launch the MunkiAdmin Application.

5. You will be asked to locate a Munki Repository. Simple navigate to find your munki_repo folder. Select this and click “Open”

Munki Repository

6. Now, by default, the application will ask you at every launch to locate your munki_repo. Let’s set it so that it’ll automatically open the last one. Go to the “MunkiAdmin” menu, then “Preferences…”.

munki admin preferences

7. Under the “On Startup” dropdown box, change it from “Prompt…” to “Open previous repository”. Close the preferences window.

open previous repository

8. That’s your copy of MunkiAdmin configured and ready for use.

Adding your installer into MunkiAdmin

9. Now we will add that Java v7 u40 installer into Munki.

10. In MunkiAdmin, go to the “File” menu, then “Import Packages…”

Adding your installer into MunkiAdmin

11. Navigate to your installer. Select this and click “Open”

java 7 update munki

12. You’ll be asked what name to save the installer under. I’d recommend using underscores or dashes instead of spaces and avoiding special characters. Also ensure that the “pkgs” folder you are saving into are in your working “munki_repo” folder. Click “Save”.

save package munki

13. MunkiAdmin will now import the installer file. Depending on the size of the file, this may take some time.

13.	MunkiAdmin will now import the installer file.

14. Once complete, you’ll be asked where you’d like to save the package information file. MunkiAdmin should auto populate the name and the location. Confirm that the “pkgsinfo” folder is in your working “munki_repo” folder and click “Save”.

pkgsinfo

15. Once complete, your new installer will show up in the Packages window. Double click this to show the advanced options on the package.

your new installer will show up in the Packages window

16. These advanced options allow you to change, in the GUI, almost all of the options supported by Munki. The first Package (“Basic Info”) allows you to name the installer, add a description and admin notes as well as set the catalogs it’s in.

advanced options  java edit

17.The second page (“Contents”) displays certain items the installer uses.

editing java update contents

18. The third page (“Requirements”) allows you to set a number of additional requirements to the installer including Maximum and Minimum OS’s as well as which Munki installs this is an update for.

Munki installs this is an update for

19. The fourth page (“Installation”) allows you to load in installer choices, blocking applications and Items to also copy over.

allows you to load in installer choices

20. The fifth page (“Install Scripts”) allows you to copy in a pre-install and post-install script.

install scripts

21. The sixth page (“Uninstall”) allows you to set uninstall scripts for if the item is set to uninstall (possibly to clean up any extra files.

remove packages

22. The seventh and final page (“Install Check Scripts”) allows you to copy in specific scripts to check for certain items prior to an install/uninstall.

install check scripts

23. Once you’re finished with this package, click “Next” or “Previous” to go to the next or previous added installer, or click “Ok” to complete the changes. You have now finished adding your Installer into Munki via MunkiAdmin.

Adding your installer into a Manifest using MunkiAdmin

24. Now we need to create a new Manifest to add our installer to. Go to the “File” menu and click “New Manifest…”

Adding your installer into a Manifest using MunkiAdmin

25. Name the new Manifest (I will be using “Basic_Manifest”) and confirm that it is being saved into the “manifests” folder in your working munki_repo folder. Click “Save”.

new Manifest munki

26. Once your new manifest is added, select it on the left hand side, select the “Installs” tab on the right, then the plus symbol (“+”) at the bottom to add the Munki installer into this manifest.

add the Munki installer into this manifest

27. We will now be presented with all of the available installers in Munki. Select the desired installer/s and then click “Add Selected”.

the available installers in Munki

28. This will now show up on the “Installs” tab. We still need to add the correct Catalog for the installation we want. Click the “Catalogs” tab at the top.

add the correct Catalog for the installation we want

29. You should see a list of available Catalogs. Select the tick box next to the relevant one/s.
Please Note: Catalogs are used in order, top to bottom. Although not relevant now with such a simple setup, this will likely come into play a little way down the line.

see a list of available Catalogs

30. Once done, click the “Make” menu item, followed by “Save”. This will complete the loading of the installer into this manifest.

load installer into manifest

31. There you go, as with the end of part 3, once you have a client configured and set to use this manifest, it should try and install the Java installer we have loaded in.

Summary

That’s it; you now have a rough and ready understanding of how to add installers into Munki, and into Munki manifests via the MunkiAdmin GUI application. If you’ve been following the series you’ll also have a basic understanding of how to carry out the same tasks from the command line. Next time I’ll (finally) show you how to get a client Mac up and running.

Any hints, tips or opinions? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll try to respond to as many as I can.

 

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.